June 17th, 2010 Headsman
On this date in 1939, French murderer Eugen Weidmann dropped his head in the basket outside a prison in Versailles. France’s signal history of public beheadings died along with him.
The career criminal Weidmann knocked around prison in his twenties.
Further to the maxim that penitentiaries are the school of crime, Weidmann’s stint for robbery connected him right up with a couple of accomplices who started up a kidnapping-robbery-murder ring when they got out.
They left several bodies (and miles of newspaper copy) in their wake in late 1937 before the inevitable capture, confession, condemnation. (Weidmann’s accomplices all managed to avoid the chop.)
The government immediately banned public executions. Although it wouldn’t be the government much longer, the change stuck.
But the crowd scene wasn’t the half of it.
Still photos of the guillotine had been snapped for years, but a delay putting justice into its heavy downward-crashing motion that morning meant the execution took place in plenty of light for an illicit moving picture.
Caution: Mature content. This is video of the guillotine in action.
From the time this film cut, France’s national razor would do its cutting only behind prison walls. It would be another 38 years yet before it trimmed its last client.
Also on this date
- 1800: Suleiman al-Halabi, assassin of General Kleber
- 1930: 13 Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang cadres, for the Yen Bai mutiny
- 1842: Charles Stoddart and Arthur Conolly, Great Game diplomats
- 1825: Isaac, Israel, and Nelson Thayer, in Buffalo's only public hanging
- 1795: The last Montagnards
- 1747: Mary Allen and Henry Simms, Gallows Lovers
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Guillotine,History,Kidnapping,Mature Content,Milestones,Murder,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft