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The Nazis’ use of the guillotine came disturbingly to light again over the weekend, when the guillotine used to chop off the head of one of the regime’s youngest and bravest opponents was re-discovered in the basement of the Bavarian National Museum in Munich.Her ‘crime’ was to have been a leading member of the White Rose movement, which had peacefully resisted the regime by writing anti-Nazi leaflets and distributing them around university students in Munich.Though fictional, it is based on the tragic true story of Otto and Elise Hampel, a working-class couple who were guillotined in Berlin’s notorious Plotzensee Prison in 1943 for distributing anonymous postcards denouncing the regime.Victim: Sophie Scholl, student at Munich University and a member of The White Rose, an anti-Nazi resistance movement, was found guilty for treason on April 22 1943 and executed by guillotine on the same day Today, we associate the guillotine with the brutality of the French Revolution, when 16,549 men and women were executed by the device. They are thought to have beheaded almost as many victims as the French Reign of Terror during their 12 horrific years in power.With his face looking into a basket, his nostrils detected the smell of dried blood over the stench of disinfectant and sawdust. The Nazis may have sentenced him to death — but he would control his final moment.The man bit down on the capsule, but as he did so, he could hear the rushing sound of the blade falling.
At Plotzensee Prison, for example, where the execution described in Hans Fallada’s novel takes place, only 45 people were put to death from 1933 to 1936 — a figure that would be dwarfed in years to come.
For executioners such as Sophie Scholl’s killer Johann Reichhart, the Nazi boom in the use of the guillotine made them wealthy.
Those who dropped the blade were paid 3,000 Reichsmarks per year — and received a 65 Reichsmark bonus per execution.
Reichhart made enough to buy a villa in an affluent Munich suburb.
Cruelly, the Nazis even charged the families of those they had imprisoned and beheaded.