Roger Million

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June 17, 1939: Weidmann is placed in the guillotine seconds before the blade falls. The crowd that witnessed the execution became quite unruly. Weidmann was beheaded outside of the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles, during which spectators engaged in ?hysterical behaviour.? After the event the authorities finally came to believe that ?far from serving as a deterrent and having salutary effects on the crowds? the public execution ?promoted baser instincts of human nature and encouraged general rowdiness and bad behaviour?. IMAGE: POPPERFOTO/GETTY IMAGES

June 17, 1939: Weidmann is placed in the guillotine seconds before the blade falls. The crowd that witnessed the execution became quite unruly. Weidmann was beheaded outside of the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles, during which spectators engaged in ?hysterical behaviour.? After the event the authorities finally came to believe that ?far from serving as a deterrent and having salutary effects on the crowds? the public execution ?promoted baser instincts of human nature and encouraged general rowdiness and bad behaviour?.?Photo Getty Images

Madame Guillotine

France’s last Public Execution

?The guillotine’s final day in the sun

The guillotine is the ultimate expression of Law? He who sees it shudders with an inexplicable dismay. All social questions achieve their finality around that blade.
?Victor Hugo,?Les Mis?rables

?This is the last public execution by guillotine, not the last execution by guillotine.

The above photograph was taken moments before the execution of Eugene Weidmann early on the morning of June 17th, 1939 outside the Saint Pierre prison at rue Georges Cl?menceau in Versailles, just outside of Paris. Weidmann had been convicted – after finally confessing to the crimes – of kidnapping and murdering six people, including a female American dancer. His taking responsibility for the murders spared the lives of his three accomplices but set Weidmann up for a date with?Madame Guillotine.

If you look carefully you can see Weidmann already strapped to the?bascule?and that he’s been tilted into position with the?lunette?closed around his neck. This was possibly less than 5 seconds before Jules-Henri Desfourneaux (just four months into the job of nation’s chief executioner) released the?d?clic?that sent a 90-pound steel razor blade slamming into Weidmann’s neck with a half-ton of force before coming to rest after falling for 1/70th of a second.

Debate still rages as to whether the victim is immediately rendered unconscious or if he/she has what might be up to 60 seconds of awareness after the head has been severed from the body before the brain finally runs out of whatever oxygen was in the head’s blood at the moment it was removed.

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