In the 1930s, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Straßmann experimented with the bombardment of heavy nuclei with neutrons. They wanted to form atoms with nuclei heavier than uranium („transuranium elememts“). In late 1938, Hahn and Straßmann irradiated uranium nuclei with neutrons. They found barium, a nucleus which is considarably lighter than uranium.
Looking for an explanation, Hahn asked month before the discovery due to her Jewish ancestry. Together with her nephew, Otto Frisch, she worked out the physical explanation fort he observed results. Hahn published his discovery in early 1939. Before the outbreak of the war, researchers world-wide repeated the experiments. Very soon, the military potential of nuclear fussion was understood.
Otto Hahn was against the military use of fission throughout his life. After the war he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the year 1944. The original equipment was arranged on the table by a colleague of Hahn. It is not historical correct, since parts of the equipment were used in different rooms. Today, the object is a symbol for the discovery and the consequences of nuclear fission.