Posts filed under 'Hanged'

1720: Matthew Tompkins, Daniel Lazenby, and Maurice Fitzgerald

Add comment August 15th, 2017 Headsman

THE Ordinary of NEWGATE

HIS ACCOUNT OF The Behaviours, Confessions, and Last Dying Words of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn on Monday the 15th of August, 1720.

The Sunday preceeding the Execution of the Prisoners, I preached to them from the following Words.

Bloody and Deceitful Men shall not live out half their Days. (Psalm 55th, part of the 23d Verse.)

We first observed that the Psalmist every where speaks of Murder with conscious Sense of Shame; The Prophet Nathan’s Parable had pierced his Bosom, and cut deep into his Heart. Well knew he, that Uriah was the poor Man with an only Lamb, that was tender to him, and lay every Night in his Bosom: His Conscience started at his Guilt; and the prospect of Love that was pleasing late, is shocking now: The Beautiful Bathsheba, and the Blood-stain’d Uriah rise up at once to his View; and in the bitterness of Soul he cries out, Deliver Me from Bloodguiltiness O God, Thou God of my Salvation! (ver. 14.)

But deep and hearty was David’s Repentance; and for every Pleasure he paid a thousand Tears. Therefore, notwithstanding his Guilt, he hopes God will save him from his Enemies. That Confidence as he often expresses, so particularly in my Text, Thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the Pit of Destruction; Bloody and Deceitful Men shall not live out half their Days.

From the Words we observed the following Things.

First, We consider’d the Nature of Bloodguiltiness: According to, 1st, the Natural; 2d, the Jewish; 3d, the Christian Law.

Secondly, We consider’d Who were meant by Deceitful Men.

Thirdly, Very briefly advis’d all to a serious Reflection on the Doctrine; because, Bloody and Deceitful Men do not live out half their Days.

First, We consider’d Bloodguiltiness according to the Law of Nature.

This is a tacit Law, engraven on the Heart, that plainly exclaims against Murder. For ’tis not agreeable to Natural Reason to suppose that I and another Rational Creature, being both of Us the Right and Property of some Superiour Being that caused us to be, can have a Right to rob that superior Being of that his other Creature by Murder. That other Creature also has a Natural Right lodg’d in him, by the Creator, to enjoy the Light of the Sun; to sleep, and feed, and whatever else the Creator has thought fit to make him capable of enjoying. As therefore, I did not give him this Capacity of Enjoyment, ’tis plain, I can have no Right to take it from him; Unless indeed where I have a particular Commission from God to do it; which is the Case of the Brutes we devour.

This is according to the Light of Nature: And even the Heathens of Popayan and Paraguay, Tho’ they used to fat up their Captive Foes, to feast upon their Flesh, yet had so much Glimmering of the Dictates of Reason, as to detest, and severely Punish the Murder of their own People; Looking upon no Crimes as Capital but Incest and Murder; But to show their Abhorrence of Them, The Prince with a Dart pursued the Offender and with his own Hands destroyed him.

2d, We consider’d Bloodguiltiness according to the Mosaic Law.

This Law, agreeable to that of Nature, is very express against Murder. Whosoe sheddeth Man’s Blood, by Man shall his Blood be shed.

Under this Head, I took Notice of what I have sometimes thought remarkable, viz. That the very Giver of this Law, Moses, should slay a Man, without any Accusation laid against him. This a Hebrew, who had heard of it, thought a Crime; and accusingly said, Intendest thou to kill Me as thou didst the Egyptian Yesterday? It also made a great Noise in the Land, so that Pharoah was acquainted with it: But Moses fled from the Face of Pharoah, and dwelt in the Land of Midian. (Exod. 2. 15.) The Manner of his Slaying Him, was thus; And he spy’d an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his Brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no Man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the Sand. (Exod. 2. 11, 12.)

The usual way of Answering this Difficulty, is, either by supposing it a wicked Action, tho’ not noted as such in Scripture; Or else, by saying, that Moses had a particular Commission from God to perform this Murder. But certainly that would be an Omission in the Sacred Writ (which far be it from any one to conceive) to leave out such a material Information; because the Murder is committed by a Person who is represented to Us as the Reverse of such a Doer. All Evil-Actions mention’d in Scripture, are mention’d for a Good End; and serve either to deter Us from the same Sins, by the Punishment annex’d to them; Or, to prevent our Despair, by the Sight of God’s Forgiveness: But it can serve to neither, of these Ends, to show Us a Virtuous Man Sinning, without noting him as disagreeing from himself.

This Answer therefore, seems to Me not to come up to the Difficulty. I would rather, with Submission, answer it thus. We must suppose it to be a Lawful Action; and who can assert the Contrary; unless he knew the Nature of the Skirmish between the Egyptian and the Hebrew? For it might be a justifiable Murder, if we suppose the Egyptian to be so beating the Hebrew, as resolving to have his Life; and to be so violent and furious therein, as that the Interposer Moses could not save the Life of the Servant of God, but by taking away That of the Barbarian; I think, with Submission, in that Case, it might be lawful for Moses to do it. The Egyptian was in the nature of an Assaulter, or Robber; and Grotius with the other Ethick Writers, determine, that I and my Friend may defend my own Life at the Expence of a Robber’s Blood. And this especially before the Christian Dispensation.

To this it may be objected, that Moses need not have looked this Way and that Way, to see if any was near, had he had this Cause for slaying the Egyptian. To this I answer, that tho’ this justified the Action in the sight of God, yet Moses knew it would not in the Eyes of Pharoah; who, we may suppose, had rather ten Hebrews should dye, than one Egyptian; As appears from his ordering all the Male Hebrew Children to be slain, only lest the Hebrews should grow too strong.

To confirm this Explication, we may observe, that the rescued Hebrew would not, in all probability, have discover’d his Brother and Deliverer, unless he had conceiv’d an Opinion (without thinking so far as Pharoah’s Partiality towards the Hebrews) that it was not a Criminal Action, on Account of the Murderous Intent of the Egyptian: And He must be the Discoverer, because we read, There was no one present. (ver. 12.)

3dly, The Christian-Law is much more express against Bloodguiltiness, than either the Natural or the Jewish; insomuch, that, Whosoe hateth his Brother is a Murderer. And agen, Whosoe sayeth to his Brother, Thou Fool, is in Danger of Hell-Fire. So far must Christians be from Murder, that Christ says, Resist not Evil; but whosoever smiteth thee on one Cheek, turn to him the Other also. (Mat. 5. 39.) Contrary to the Jewish Law, which said, An Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth.

Secondly, Under the Second general Head we consider’d, who are meant by Deceitful Men, – Bloody, and Deceitful Men.

  • 1st.) By Deceitful Men, may be meant False-Friends. This certainly is very sinful. ‘Tis also imprudent, We should well consider before we take a Friend to our Bosom; and better consider before we throw him thence agen.
  • 2dly.) By Deceitful Men, may be meant Thieves. As the Psalmist says, He sitteth lurking in the thievish Corners of the Streets. Psal. 10. 8.

    It is become usual for Us to see Robbings in the publick Streets; How different are you from the Example of our Saviour; He went about Doing Good, But you Doing Ill: He preach’d Peace thro’ the Streets, But you denounce Slaughter and Rapine. Little then would one think, ye had renounced the World at your Baptism, and profest your selves Followers, Pupils, Imitators of Christ.

    Some in your Conditions have seem’d to value themselves upon their bearing their Misfortunes as becomes Men: But can ye take a sort of Pride in dying Couragiously like a Man, and not be ashamed of having liv’d like Brutes? Was their not something Mean and Base (for that ye will most regard) in inhabiting the Night, and flying the Face of Day, which Man was form’d with an Aspect erect to gaze at? The Apostle says, We are not of the Night, but of the Day; and let us who are of the Day be Sober; putting on the Breast-plate of Faith and Love, and for an Helmet, the Hope of Salvation. 1 Thess. 5. 8.

  • 3dly.) By Deceitful Men may be meant Defamers and Backbiters. This is a Deceit, perhaps as pernicious as the Thief’s, tho’ not equally liable to Punishment: The Robber despoils Us of our Goods, the Defamer, of our Reputations; One injures Us Clandestinely, The other to our Face. But Christ said, Let him who is without Sin among you, first throw a Stone at Her.

Thirdly. The Third General Head was, to perswade All to the Consideration of the Doctrine, for the Reason in the Text, Bloody and Deceitful Men shall not live out half their Days.
Under this Head we consider’d the Misery of being cut off in the Pride and Prime of Youth, while the Face of Nature was delightful, and joyous the Light of the Sun: And that this Misery was but the Natural Consequence of Sin, especially of Bloodguiltiness, agreeable to the Text.

I lastly conjured them, to compensate for their former evil Lives, by the uncommon Earnestness of their Repentance; Never to leave Assaulting the Throne of Grace, till they had some dawning Assurances of Salvation; But so to expend their few remaining Hours, that they might launch forth from Sorrow to Joy; from Pain to Satisfaction; and from a World of Care into Realms of never fading Pleasures.

1. Matthew Tomkins, was Convicted of robbing John Wickers, on the High-way, of 4 Guineas and 16 s. 6 d.

The Account he gave me of himself was as follows.

He said he was 22 Years of Age; a single Man; born at Tunbridge, where he has now a Father and Mother residing in good Credit and Reputation. He said, they brought him up with the utmost Tenderness, and gave him a considerable share of Learning. He never was Apprentice to any Trade; but was in Quality of a Book-keeper for some time, at a great China Shop in London, where nothing was objected against his Behaviour.

He said, he was lately Master of about 400 l. That he then gave himself up too much to Pleasure: He was often advis’d by his Friends to purchase a Place for Life, but never was so happy as to follow their good Counsel; He added, that he liv’d in a very jovial Manner, upon the principal Money, pursuing his Pleasures, and denying himself nothing that might tend to the Gratifying his Inclinations.

Upon a Day (as he told me) he took a Ride to Ware in Hartfordshire, alone by himself; but he there got into some Company, they proposed a Game at Cards, which they said they did not well Understand, ’twas a new Game, but they were told ’twas very Diverting. Mr. Tompkins soon undertook to play with them. When he had lost all his Money, he call’d for his Horse, in order to return to London.

Upon the Road, he said, he met a Man, of a sober Aspect; whose Occupation he should little have suspected from his Appearance. With this Person he fell into Discourse, and was complaining of the Tricks and Deceits of Cards, and related how he had been served at Ware, where he had been bubbled out of all his Money. The Stranger told him, he need not be necessitated for Money, so long as he was upon an open Road; and in short, gave him a Pistol. The next Gentleman they met, they rob’d of four Guineas and some Silver, half of which he had; and parting with his Instructor at London, never saw him after.

This is the Account he gave me of his committing this wicked Action. He also told me, That he had let his Parents know his Misfortunes he was under, but had, at the same time requested of them, not to come to London on that Account, for it was not in their Power to be any way Serviceable to him in that Condition; but that the Sight of them, who had always used him with so great Tenderness and Affection, would greatly aggravate and encrease his Sorrow.

He shou’d me a Book, which a Clergyman sent him, which he said had been the occasion of his passing the sad and Melancholly Hours of Confinement, not only with Patience but with some Satisfaction and Delight.

The Saturday before his Execution, He told me he had then entirely laid aside all Thoughts of the World, and that the Sight of his Acquaintance was become Painful to him; for he had in some measure habituated Himself to think of Heaven, till it was become Grateful to him in the Consideration.

2. David Lazenby, was Convicted of breaking open the Chambers of Charles Wood, Esq; in the Night-time, and stealing thence, some Holland Shirts, Cravats, a Beaver Hat, Sheets, a Cloath Coat and Wast-coat, Worsted Stockings, &c. The Account he gave me of himself was as follows.

He said, He was 26 Years of Age; Born at Market-Weston in Suffolk, of honest and reputable Parents. He was put Prentice to a Weaver; to which Trade he served his 7 Years out. But this Employment not being sufficient to maintain him, he said, he went into the Country; Being there at a loss how to employ his time, and procure a comfortable Subsistance, he at last determin’d to set up a Publick House, which he accordingly did; but soon growing weary of that noisy and quarrelsome Life, he returned again to London, where he met with tolerable Encouragement in his own Trade.

He said, that at the Time he was Apprehended on Suspicion, he liv’d at Hoxton, where he Employ’d 5 Journeymen under him at the Weaving Business .

He told me, that during my Sickness, a Great Distiller in Fore-street had desired to speak with me concerning him; that I would put the Question to him, whether he was not concern’d in robbing his Dining-Room, of several peices of Plate, some marked with his Coat of Arms, and some Plain. When the Prisoner had told me this, I accordingly taxed him, as he was a Dying Man, and had I hoped a value for his Soul, whether he knew any thing of the aforesaid Robbery? But he solemnly protested that he was entirely ignorant of it.

Another Gentleman also in Hoxton-Square, apply’d to me, to desire I would put the Question to him, whither he was not concern’d in the Breaking open his House; he having suspected him on Account of some Tickets for an Entertainment, dropt near his House, with David Lazenby’s Name thereto. But the Prisoner said, the Tickets were accidentally dropt by that House, and were for him and some Friends to make merry innocently together. I hope he was sincere in his Declarations.

3. Maurice Fitzgerald, was condemned for the Murder of a Watchman in the Strand.

He was about 20 Years of Age; born in Ireland; his Education was Liberal and Genteel. As to his Behaviour during his Confinement, after the Sentence pass’d upon him, it was Sober and Grave; he constantly frequented the publick Service in the Chappel, where he appear’d not without Devotion and a sense of Religion, making the Responces very duely, and reading the Psalms alternately after me. Notwithstanding this, It has been thought that he did not dye in the Communion of the Church of England; But this I think he would not have dissembled, had it been so; for I put the Question to him, and he told me that he dyed a Member of the English Church. I frequently talk’d with him about the Nature of his former Course of Life, and his Stabbing a Man sometime ago with a Penknife; he seem’d to acknowledge that among all Courses of Life, the Sober and Serene Man bids the fairest for Happiness even here; and that no Satisfaction really consists in having the Spirits always in a Hurry and a Flutter, and in flying about from one House of Obscenity to another.

The Account of them at the Place of Execution.

Maurice Fitzgerald. At the Tree he spoke to the People present; signifying that he had reason to accuse some Persons as to his being Executed, whom he Named. He then declared, that he dyed in Charity towards all Men; and desired the Spectators Prayers for his departing Soul; adding, that he was pleas’d and easy at his leaving Care and Anxiety. He then gave me a Letter for his Brother; and ask’d me if I had retain’d the Paper he gave me at the Sacrament. He had been Scandaliz’d for Living with a Lady in a vicious Manner, to wit, Mrs. Witworth; That Paper relates to this, and is as follows.

SIR,

I Beg you will satisfy the World, that I was lawfully Married to Mrs. Witfield, according to the Rights and Ceremonies of the Church of England, as I shall answer before the Great and Good God one Day, and to her. Witness my Hand, this 14th of August, 1720. M. Fitzgerald.

David Lazenby. At the Tree, he deliver’d me a Paper, which he desired I would by all means Publish; and was as follows.

WHEN under Sentence of Death, one Mrs. Flowers came to me, concerning a Robbery, which one John Young swore her into: Now, I David Lazenby do solemnly declare upon the Holy Sacrament, which I take this 15th day of August, that the said Robbery (at the Quaker’s next Door to the Nagg’s Head in Islington) was committed by two other Persons, whose Names are John Brush, and Joseph Smith. Neither was Mrs. Flowers any way concern’d in purchasing the Goods.

THO. PURNEY, Ordinary and Chaplain.

LONDON: Printed and Sold by JOHN APPLEBEE, a little below Bridewel-Bridge, Black-Fryers.

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1896: Mirza Reza Kermani, assassin of the Shah

1 comment August 12th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1896,* Persian revolutionary Mirza Reza Kermani was hanged publicly for assassinating the Qajar Shah of Persia.

Shah since his gouty father kicked off in 1848, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar enjoys the distinction of being the third-longest ruler in the long history of Persian polities.

Only 64 years old at his death, Naser al-Din was young enough to have made a good run at the longevity runner-up 16th century Shah Tahmasp I;** however, his increasingly dogged resistance to reform and proclivity for gifting economic concessions to foreign firms bearing lucrative kickbacks eventually induced a young revolutinary named Mirza Reza Kermani to shoot Nasser al-Din dead at a shrine. It’s alleged that he had foregone a previous opportunity to murder the king in a public space frequented by Jews celebrating Passover, for fear that the regicide would be attributed to them and induce pogroms.

Naser al-Din’s sybaritic son Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar struggled equally to manage his restive subjects’ hunger for better statecraft, eventually (in 1906) leading to a constitutional era setting an a parliament at loggerheads with the Qajar princes.

* I’m attributing the date based on original reportage datelines in the Western press. There are some attributions to August 10 and to August 22 to be found.

** Number one is Shapur II, who was king for all of his 70 years in the fourth century.

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1944: Eliga Brinson and Willie Smith, American rapists abroad

Add comment August 11th, 2017 Headsman

Privates Eliga Brinson (of Tallahassee, Florida) and Willie Smith (of Birmingham, Alabama) were hanged on this date in 1944 at Shepton Mallet prison.

The two U.S. servicemen had ambushed and raped 16-year-old Dorothy Holmes in Gloucestershire that April. Tried and sentenced by the U.S. military, their hangings occurred over 100 years after Great Britain abolished the death penalty for rape.

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1859: Ratu Mara Kapaiwai, Fiji warrior

Add comment August 6th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1859,* the Ratu (chief or prince) Seru Epenisa Cakobau hanged a major obstacle to his control the Fiji archipelago.

Fiji comprises over 300 distinct islands in the South Pacific of which the principal and namesake is Viti Levu. Our man Cakobau ascended as the Ratu of a two-mile islet, Bau, which hugs the east coast of Viti Levu and to a 19th century European visitor “may with propriety be called the capital of Feejee.”

Not all of “Feejee” was quite so eager as Mary Davis Wallis to champion the suzerainty of the Ratu of Bau, and so Cakobau spent much of the mid-19th century maneuvering to consolidate and extend his authority. He would in the end succeed well enough to establish the first unified Kingdom of Fiji in 1871, and it was his signature on the 1874 Deed of Cession that gave said kingdom to the British.**

But before he could be the father of the nation he had to put his foot on the neck of rivals like his cousin Ratu Mara Kapaiwai.

“The ubiquitous stormy petrel of mid nineteenth century Fiji” (source), Mara’s bold adventures blew a turbulent wind through the Fijian political scene in the 1840s and 1850s. A renowned seaman and aggressive warrior, he called no one place home but shuttled incessantly among Fijian and Tongan islands, and among shifting alliances thereof. If there was one constant in the life of Mara Kapaiwai it was rejecting the overlordship of Cakobau.

He suffered what would prove to be a decisive defeat in 1855 at the Battle of Kaba, although the convert Cakobau in a paroxysm of Christian charity forgave the defeated right there on the battlefield instead of insisting the traditional right to kill and cannibalize them.

His pique for his kinsman only stoked by the defeat, the stormy petrel returned soon enough to his schemes and by 1858 had raised another rebellion.

Cakobau put an end to this resistance by putting an end to Mara himself: luring Mara to Bau with promise of forgiveness, Cakobau instead had him seized and sent to the gallows the very next day.

“He said his punishment was quite just — that he had been a very bad man and had caused the death of very many people, but that he sincerely repented of his sins and looked for mercy believing that in God his sins were being pardoned,” according to a Wesleyan missionary who attended to Mara.

* There are a few cites to be found for June 8, rather than August 6, which I cannot credit to any better cause than an inverted reading of the date 6/8 or 8/6 because people are rubbish about dates. The scholarly consensus around 6 August, and the allusion in sources like this book chapter to western missionaries’ diaries and letters, carries the argument for me — even though I have not been able to lay my own eyes on those primary documents. (As best I can determine, many of these firsthand accounts are held, un-digitized, by the Methodist Church of Australasia Department of Overseas Missions.)

** Fiji attained independence within the Commonwealth in 1970. Queen Elizabeth II’s picturesque honorific as Tui Viti (paramount chief) of Fiji — the title that Cokabau ceded to Queen Victoria along with the archipelago — has slipped into official disuse in recent years but many Fijians still embrace Elizabeth as queen. Here’s a newsreel of her 1953 visit to Fiji:

Topical here: Ratu Mara’s grandson Lala Sakuna became one of the leading statesmen of Fijian independence in the 20th century, although he predeceased its realization … fulfilling Mara’s plea to his executioner “for the safety of his 10-day-old son Joni, promising Cakobau that one day the child’s descendants would ‘bear Fiji up’.” (Source)

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1944: The Wola Massacre begins, during the Warsaw Uprising

2 comments August 5th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1944, a weeklong German slaughter of Polish civilians and resistance fighters began in the Wola district of the capital city Warsaw.

The Wola Massacre marked the start of the Reich’s counterattack against the Warsaw Uprising, the heroic and suicidal rising mounted by the Polish Home Army as the Red Army’s summer offensive brought it to the banks of the Vistula.

Aiming to claim some foothold upon which to influence events in the soon-to-be Soviet-occupied Poland, the Home Army enjoyed initial success in the first days of August. But German reserves from the Replacement Army — the vehicle by which the Valkyrie plotters had attempted their coup against Hitler just days before, and now as a consequence answering directly to Heinrich Himmler — were quick to the scene and would turn back the rising in weeks of bloody urban warfare. Himmler’s authority in crushing the Warsaw Uprising would also allow him to give rein to his SS for a campaign of atrocities intended to cow the populace into speedy submission.

Himmler wasn’t a battlefield commander, of course. Chief on the scene would be Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski; for this purpose he would enlist some of the more notorious units on the eastern front, such as the lawless Sonderbataillon Dirlewanger and the “Russian National Liberation Army” of Bronislav Kaminski. They were just the types to implement Himmler’s brutal orders* for a city they were soon to lose anyway:

  1. Captured insurrectionists shall be killed whether or not they fight in accordance with the Hague Convention.
  2. The non-fighting part of the population, women, children, shall also be killed.
  3. The whole city shall be razed to the ground, i.e. its buildings, streets, facilities, and everything within its borders.

The outcome rates as perhaps the largest battlefield massacre of World War II.

On August 5, Bach-Zelewski’s forces began a coordinated push into the western suburb of Wola. Himmler’s orders were implemented immediately, as attested by numerous civilian witnesses and lucky survivors:

I lived in the Wola district at No. 8, Elekcyjna Street. At 10 a.m. on Aug. 5, 1944 a detachment of SS-men and Vlassov’s men entered. They drove us from the cellars and brought us near the Sowinski Park at Ulrychow. They shot at us when we passed. My wife was killed on the spot: our child was wounded and cried for his mother. Soon a Ukrainian approached and killed my two-year-old child like a dog; then he approached me together with some Germans and stood on my chest to see whether I was alive or not – I shammed dead, lest I should be killed too. One of the murderers took my watch; I heard him reloading his gun. I thought he would finish me off, but he went on further, thinking I was dead. I lay thus from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. pretending to be dead, and witnessing further atrocities. During that time I saw further groups being driven out and shot near the place where I lay. The huge heap of corpses grew still bigger. Those who gave any sign of life were shot. I was buried under other corpses and nea rly suffocated. The executions lasted until 5 p.m. At 9 p.m. a group of Poles came to take the corpses away. I gave them a sign that I was alive. They helped me to get up and I regained sufficient strength to carry with them the body of my wife and child to the Sowinski Park, where they took all the dead. After this sad duty had been performed they took me to St. Laurence’s Church at Wola, where I remained till next day. I cannot state the exact number of the victims, but I estimate that those among whom I lay amounted to some 3,000 (three thousand). I met a friend in the church who had gone through the same experience as I, having lost a boy of 8, who had been wounded and died calling for his father. I am still in hospital and the image of death is constantly before my eyes.

And another:

On August 5, 1944, between 12 and 2 p.m., I saw from a window on the first floor of Wola Hospital Germans dragging women out of the cellars of No. 28, Plocka Street. They shot them in the courtyard with machine-guns. Almost at the same time, I saw in the courtyard of No. 30, Plocka Street the hands of more then 20 people raised and visible over the fence (the people themselves could not be seen). After a volley of shots these hands fell down: this was another of the executions in Wola.

And the agonizing testimony of Wanda Lurie:

I stayed in the cellar of No. 18 until August 5, when, between 11 and 12 noon, the Germans ordered all of us to get out, and marched us to Wolska Street. This march was carried out in dreadful haste and panic. My husband was absent, taking an active part in the Rising, and I was alone with my three children, aged 4, 6 and 12, and in the last month of pregnancy. I delayed my departure, hoping they would allow me to remain, and left the cellar at the very last moment. All the inhabitants of our house had already been escorted to the “Ursus” works in Wolska Street at the corner of Skierniewicka Street, and I too was ordered to go there. I went alone, accompanied only by my three children. It was difficult to pass, the road being full of wire, cable, remains of barricades, corpses, and rubble. Houses were burning on both sides of the street; I reached the “Ursus” work’s with great difficulty. Shots, cries, supplications and groans could be heard from the factory yard. We had no doubt that this was a place for mass executions.

The people who stood at the entrance were led, no, pushed in, not all at once but in groups of 20. A boy of twelve, seeing the bodies of his parents and of his little brother through the half-open entrance door, fell in a fit and began to shriek. The Germans and Vlassov‘s men beat him and pushed him back, while he was endeavouring to get inside. He called for his father and his mother. We all knew what awaited us here; there was no possibility of escape or of buying one’s life; there was a crowd of Germans, Ukrainians (Vlassov’s men), and cars. I came last and kept in the background, continuing to let the others pass, in the hope that they would not kill a pregnant woman, but I was driven in with the last lot. In the yard I saw heaps of corpses 3 feet high, in several places. The whole right and left side of the big yard (the first yard) was strewn with bodies. We were led through the second. There were about 20 people in our group, mostly children of 10 to 12. There were children without parents, and also a paralysed old woman whose son-in-law had been carrying her all the time on his back. At her side was her daughter with two children of 4 and 7. They were all killed. The old woman was literally killed on her son-in-law’s back, and he along with her. We were called out in groups of four and led to the end of the second yard to a pile of bodies. When the four reached this point, the Germans shot them through the backs of their heads with revolvers. The victims fell on the heap, and others came. Seeing what was to be their fate, some attempted to escape; they cried, begged, and prayed for mercy. I was in the last group of four. I begged the Vlassov’s men around me to save me and the children, and they asked if I had anything with which to buy my life. I had a large amount of gold with me and gave it them. They took it all and wanted to lead me away, but the German supervising the execution would not allow them to do so, and when I begged him to let me go he pushed me off, shouting “Quicker!” I fell when he pushed me. He also hit and pushed my elder boy, shouting “hurry up, you Polish bandit”. Thus I came to the place of execution, in the last group of four, with my three children. I held my two younger children by one hand, and my elder boy by the other. The children were crying and praying. The elder boy, seeing the mass of bodies, cried out: “they are going to kill us” and called for his father. The first shot hit him, the second me; the next two killed the two younger children. I fell on my right side. The shot was not fatal. The bullet penetrated the back of my head from the right side and went out through my cheek. I spat out several teeth; I felt the left side of my body growing numb, but I was still conscious and saw everything that was going on around me.

I witnessed other executions, lying there among the dead. More groups of men were led in. I heard cries, supplications, moaning, and shots. The bodies of these men fell on me. I was covered by four bodies. Then I again saw a group of women and children; thus it went on with group after group until late in the evening. It was already quite, quite dark when the executions stopped. In the intervals between the shootings the murderers walked on the corpses, kicked them, and turned them over, finishing off those who still gave any sign of life, and stealing valuables.

German soldiers too recorded wholesale executions in their diaries and correspondence; while the accounts above are all specifically attributable to the 5th of August, those that follow are undated snapshots of environment:

Policemen with rifles under their arms trudged along. All of the police from occupied Poland came together there to show off their bravery and also to enrich themselves on the side. I did not see this activity, but others did. They saw how these policemen executed those from the procession who could not keep up, those who were sick and lagging behind, and right in front of their compatriots. What was particularly troubling about this misery is that unlike in Russia what was occurring was not a matter of a completely poor, and in any event already moaning, mass of people; rather these were people of our own social class, women in fur coats, cute children who up until two days before had been fully cared for. This memory has always caused me anguish during my short stopovers in Warsaw: the look from so many hostile eyes, people of our culture, who knew exactly what I knew. For that reason I was always glad never to have been deployed in the West. And now I stood beside these people in bitter agony, and I was shocked.

Now we arrived at the command post of the SS-commander. There were two buses parked on the right side of the street. We reported to the SS-commander, a medium-built stringent man with a sharply chiseled face. With a cold glance at the procession of women and children that was passing no farther than 10 meters from us, he said, “You see, this is our biggest problem. These refugees! I don’t have enough ammunition to kill them all!” He said this quietly and with a remorseful shrug of the shoulders, this elegant officer with the Iron Cross and pleasant manners. Meanwhile tears fell down my cheeks. What kind of human being was he?

-Hans Thieme

And another:

Before each daily operation I reported to the SS commander. During one visit I witnessed an event, which sickened me to my very core. The SS officer’s office was on the upper floor of a building and had a balcony that overlooked a large courtyard. The SS had lined up near a wall about 40 or so Polish men, women, and children of all ages. I distinctly recall a young woman holding hands with two small children. It was clear to me what was about to happen. I confronted the SS commander as to why these people were about to be shot. His reply was that they were being executed as a reprisal for the Germans that had been killed in the Uprising. He informed me that it was also none of my concern. Shortly, thereafter the hostages were shot before my eyes. I was disgusted by what I had witnessed and after 60 years later it still haunts me.

-Eberhard Schmalz

And another:

I was setting explosives under big doors, somewhere in Old Town. From inside we heard Nicht schiessen! Nicht schiessen! (Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!). The doors opened and a nurse appeared with a tiny white flag. We went inside with fixed bayonets. A huge hall with beds and mattresses on the floor. Wounded were everywhere. Besides Poles there were also wounded Germans. They begged the SS-men not to kill the Poles. A Polish officer, a doctor and 15 Polish Red Cross nurses surrendered the military hospital to us. The Dirlewangerers were following us. I hid one of the nurses behind the doors and managed to lock them. I heard after the war that she has survived. The SS-men killed all the wounded. They were breaking their heads with rifle butts. The wounded Germans were screaming and crying in despair. After that, the Dirlewangerers ran after the nurses; they were ripping clothes off them. We were driven out for guard duty. We heard women screaming. In the evening, on Adolph Hitler’s Square [now Pilsudzki Square] there was a roar as loud as during boxing fights. So I and my friend climbed the wall to see what was happening there. Soldiers of all units: Wehrmacht, SS, Kaminski’s Cossacks, boys from Hitlerjugend; whistles, exhortations. Dirlewanger stood with his men and laughed. The nurses from the hospital were rushed through the square, naked with hands on their heads. Blood ran down their legs. The doctor was dragged behind them with a noose on his neck. He wore a rag, red maybe from blood and a thorn crown on top of the head. All were lead to the gallows where a few bodies were hanging already. When they were hanging one of the nurses, Dirlewanger kicked the bricks she was standing on.

-Mathias Schenk

A much larger catalogue of atrocity accounts awaits at warsawuprising.org.

The massacre at Wola would run on to about the 13th at which point Bach-Zelewski abated the civilian massacre order as counterproductive: too many soldier-hours needed for focused bloodbaths were being squandered orchestrating gratuitous ones. Nevertheless, weeks of hard urban warfare lay ahead, and policy continued to embrace the summary execution of captured fighters and of all fighting-age men, resistance or no. Some 200,000 civilians are thought to have died during the Warsaw Uprising.

One legacy was eerily and unknowingly captured by a LIFE magazine photographer in 1948, of a young girl in a school for disturbed children in Poland. Her face a scramble of innocence and madness as it peers into the lens, she illustrates her “home” as an incoherent chalk vortex. It wasn’t known until many years after this photo became emblematic of a generation wracked by horror, but “Tereska” — Teresa Adwentowska — was an orphaned survivor of Wola.

* Per Bach-Zelewski’s evidence to the Nuremberg tribunal. By dint of cooperation, he saved his own life from the Nuremberg gallows.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Children,Execution,Executions Survived,Germany,Hanged,History,Innocent Bystanders,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Poland,Shot,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions,Women

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A day in the executions of Franz Schmidt

Add comment August 4th, 2017 Headsman

The free imperial city of Nuremberg has been a regular feature on this site thanks to the detailed journal of executions kept by its legendary executioner Franz Schmidt.

We have profiled many of the more remarkable cases individually. Today, we’ll pause for a few of central Europe’s lesser criminals whose deaths at Schmidt’s hand on various August Fourths were more representative of the everyday malefactors who paid the last penalty on early modern scaffolds. All block text records Schmidt’s own words.


August 4, 1586: Hans Weber and Lienhardt Hagen

Hans Weber, of the New Town, a potter and thief, whom I whipped out of Neunkirchen ten years ago; Lienhardt Hagen, of Teusslen, a bath-keeper, alias der Kaltbader, a thief and robber, who with his companion helped to attack people by night, tortured them, burnt them with fire, poured hot grease on them and wounded them grievously; also tortured pregnant women, so that one died at Schwertzenbach; stole all manner of things everywhere. The potter was hanged, the bath-keeper executed on the wheel. The bath-keeper had broken into the church at Lohndorff and stolen the chalice, also helped once to steal 500 florins. (a list of many other small sums follows.)


August 4, 1607: Margaret Marranti

Margaret Marranti, a country girl from the knackers’ sheds, who was in service with the innkeeper there, had intercourse with a carrier whom she did not know, and became pregnant. Took service with the farmer at Dorrenhof at Candlemas, concealing her pregnancy. When she was haymaking in the meadows, was seized with pains and contortions, and when the farmer’s wife said she would send for the midwife, the girl made an excuse, and remaining behind at night, gave birth to a child near a shed by the river Pegnitz. She immediately threw the child into the water and drowned it, though it stirred and struggled. Beheaded with the sword here on this account.


August 4, 1613: Matthew Werdtfritzn

Matthew Werdtfritzn of Furth, a Landzknecht, alias ‘Eightfingers,’ a robber. With the help of a companion he attacked the carrier from Regensburg in the Neuenwald, wounded him and his son mortally, and took about 800 florins’ worth of money and goods. Took 84 florins from the baker woman of Lauff, and wounded her lad in the same way, so that he was thought likely to die. Took 40 florins from a carter and 18 florins from the fisherman of Fach; in all twelve highway roberies. For these crimes he was executed on the wheel as a robber.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,17th Century,Abortion and Infanticide,Beheaded,Broken on the Wheel,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,Gruesome Methods,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions,Soldiers,Theft,Women

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1829: John Stacey, in Portsmouth town

Add comment August 3rd, 2017 Headsman

A barbarous, foul, & horrid deed
I shortly will recite,
Which did occur in Portsmouth town
Upon a Sunday night;
An aged man of eighty years,
His housekeeper likewise,
Were there most basely murdered,
By a monster in disguise.

All in the night, so dark and drear,
He entrance did obtain,
And with a deadly hammer he
Beat out the old man’s brains,
His throat he cut from ear to ear,
Most horrible to view,
And streams of crimson blood did flow
The bed-room through and through.

The aged housekeeper likewise,
Lay butcher’d on the floor,
Her face and hands most cruelly
Were cut, and stabb’d full sore.
Her head it was nearly severed
From off her body quite.
Those who beheld it shivered,
So dreadful was the sight.

When at the bar the murderer stood,
He could not deny his guilt,
‘Twas clearly proved that he
The aged couples blood had spilt;
The Jury found him guilty,
And the Judge to him did say,
You must prepare to end your days,
Upon the gallows high.

-Broadside ballad about double murderer John Stacey, hanged adjacent to the house of his victim on August 3, 1829

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Public Executions,Theft

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1766: James Annin and James M’Kinzy

Add comment August 1st, 2017 Headsman

From the Pennsylvania Gazette, Aug. 7, 1766:

BURLINGTON (New-Jersey) August 4

At a Court of Oyer and Terminer, held at Burlington, on Wednesday, the Thirtieth Day of July last, came on the Trial of James Annin, aged 54 Years, and James M’Kinzy, aged 19 Years, on an Indictment for the Murder of two Indian Women, named Hannah and Catherine, who had long resided in the Neighbourhood of the Place where the Murder was committed.

It appeared by their own Examinations, and by the Testimony of credible Witnesses, that they had been on the Western Frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia, but that their first Acquaintance began in Philadelphia; that they came to Moore’s Town, in the County of Burlington, on Thursday, the 26th of June last, about Noon, and begged for Charity, and obtained Relief: That while they were eating their Dinners, the two Indians who were murdered, came to the Place where they were, and that the youngest of the Men gave them abusive Language: That the Indians went off, and rested in a Wood, near the Side of the Road: That the one of them was possessed of a clean Shift, and the other of a Piece of new Linen, which they had that Day got: That about 2 o’Clock on the same Day, James Annin sold the Shift, and James M’Kinzy the Piece of new Linen, and a Blanket, about two Miles from Moore’s Town.

That they were parted by Accident, and that many People had seen the Indians lying in View of the Road, and supposed them to be asleep, till Sunday, the 29th of June, when two Persons perceived a Stench, and on going near the Bodies, found they were dead; whereupon the Coroner was called, whose Inquest found them to be murdered by Persons unknown.

On this Alarm the two Criminals were suspected, and pursued.

James Annin was apprehended, and committed to the Goal at Burlington, and the other advertised from the Description given by Annin, and in a few Days taken up by Order of the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, and sent to Burlington.

The Examinations of the Prisoners, taken before they had an Opportunity of seeing each other, were read, and by each Examination it appeared, that they went to the Indians with Intent to ravish them, if they should refuse their Offers; each acknowledged that he was present at the Murder, but charged the giving the Stroke on the other, and acknowledged also the taking the Goods; in this they persisted at the Bar. The Jury soon found them guilty, and they received Sentence of Death.

On Friday Noon they were hanged at the Gallows; they continued in denying the Fact, and charging it on each other. The Elder declared, he thought it a Duty to extirpate the Heathen, and just before they were turned off, M’Kinzy, the younger of the Men, acknowledged, that one of the Indians, on receiving the Blow from Annin, struggled violently, and that he, to put her out of Pain, sunk the Hatchet in her Head, but that they were both knocked down by Annin.

The youngest of the Squaws was near the Time of Delivery, and had Marks of shocking Treatment, which the most savage Nations on Earth could not have surpassed.

A few of the principal Indians of Jersey, were desired to attend the Trial and Execution, which they did, and behaved with remarkable Sobriety.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,New Jersey,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft,USA

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1934: Otto Planetta and Franz Holzweber, for the Juliputsch

Add comment July 31st, 2017 Headsman

German-Austria must return to the great German mother country, and not because of any economic considerations. No, and again no: even if such a union were unimportant from an economic point of view; yes, even if it were harmful, it must nevertheless take place. One blood demands one Reich. Never will the German nation possess the moral right to engage in colonial politics until, at least, it embraces its own sons within a single state …

The elemental cry of the German-Austrian people for union with the German mother country, that arose in the days when the Habsburg state was collapsing, was the result of a longing that slumbered in the heart of the entire people — a longing to return to the never-forgotten ancestral home. But this would be inexplicable if the historical education of the individual German-Austrian had not given rise to so general a longing. In it lies a well which never grows dry; which, especially in times of forgetfulness, transcends all momentary prosperity and by constant reminders of the past whispers softly of a new future

-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

On this date in 1934, two Nazis were hanged for their part in a failed Austrian coup.

From his political ascent in 1933 — and well before, as the quote above indicates — the Reich’s unification with his native land of Austria had been a cherished goal for Adolf Hitler. To that end, Berlin had fostered a clandestine network of Austrian Nazis branded as “SS Standarte 89″ and allowed exiles to broadcast seditious propaganda from German soil.

Their “July Putsch” (English Wikipedia entry | German) was a year or so in the making, and commenced when four truckloads of SS Standarte 89 men in military attire suddenly stormed the federal chancellery in Vienna, murdering chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in the process.

“Hitler received the tidings while listening to a performance of Das Rheingold at the annal Wagner Festival at Bayreuth,” Shirer noted in The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich — and Wagner’s granddaughter, also in attendance, could not help observing his “excitement” and “delight” and simultaneous anxiety to feign uninvolvement.

The last of these impulses showed the emerging tyrant’s wisdom, for the coup swiftly collapsed — exposing, to Hitler’s fury, the inept organization of the plot. Basically no other coordinated actions took place to complete the coup and the Austrian army remained loyal to the existing government, leaving to the lonely SS Standarte 89 nothing but a feeble surrender.

The first targets of the resulting courts-martial were Otto Planetta (cursory English Wikipedia entry | more detailed German), who actually pulled the trigger to kill the chancellor, and Franz Holzweber, the apparent leader of the attack on the chancellery. They would be tried and condemned in a two-day hearing July 30-31 and hanged within three hours of conviction. In time, both the Planetta and the Holzweber name would adorn many city streets in the Third Reich as patriot-martyrs.

Both prisoners, when asked whether they had anything to say before hearing their sentences, addressed the Court. Planetta said: —

I do not know how many hours I have to live. But one thing I would like to say, I am no cowardly murderer. It was not my intention to kill. One thing more. As a human being I am sorry for my deed, and I beg the wife of the late Chancellor to forgive me.

Holzweber said: —

I was assured that there would be no bloodshed. I was told also that I should find Herr Rintelen at the Chancery,, that the new Government was already formed. Not meeting the leader of the operation at the Chancery, I disclosed myself at once to Major Fey. I told him, here I stand, and I do not know what I should do. More or less spontaneously I took over the responsibility for our men because no one was there to take charge of the matter.

Holzweber, who was executed first, cried out on the gallows: “We die for Germany. Heil Hitler.” Planetta said simply, “Heil Hitler.”

-London Times, Aug. 1, 1934

The time was not yet ripe — and Hitler, no matter how heiled by his would-be subjects, was required by the diplomatic blowback to forswear ambitions on unifying with Austria.

But the Fuhrer’s soft whispers of a new future would grow ever more insistent in the months to come, and not four years later the Reich accomplished the Anschluss.

That July 25, in 1938, in a Vienna now successfully absorbed to greater Germany,

the fourth anniversary [of the Juliputsch] was celebrated as an heroic act comparable with the Rathenau and Erzberger murders. The survivors of ‘SS Standarte 89′ marched to the federal Austrian Chancellery, which had been renamed the Reichstatthalterei. Here the bereaved families of thirteen men were addressed by Rudolf Hess. A tablet was unveiled which proclaimed that:

154 German men of the 89th SS Standarte stood up here for Germany on 25 July, 1934. Seven found death at the hands of the hangman.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Austria,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Power,Soldiers,Terrorists,Treason

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1789: Giovanna Bonanno, la Vecchia dell’Aceto

Add comment July 30th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1789, the Sicilian poisoner Giovanna Bonanno was hanged in Palermo.

Portrait of an Old Woman, by Giorgione (c. 1500-1510)

Bonanno (English Wikipedia entry | Italian) had borne the unremarked burdens of the poor into her ninth decade; her life prior to the brush with infamy is all but dark to us save a suspected marriage record from 1744. She seems to have scrabbled her way by beggary and folk magic.

In 1786, she chanced upon the the formula to concoct a lethal yet subtle draught from white wine vinegar and arsenic. (She never divulged its precise composition.)

For a few years in the late 1780s Bonanno’s vinegar became the hit choice for the choice hit. It was the ideal concoction: victims couldn’t detect it and doctors couldn’t diagnose it — so dissatisfied spouses, overeager heirs, rivalrous lovers, keepers of grudges, and all other manner of winnowers beat a path to her door.

Inevitably this business was betrayed as word got about; although it would surely have occurred by means of some other leak soon enough, in the event it happened when Bonanno’s delivery-woman realized that her parcel was intended for someone that she knew, and warned him.

As usual, it was the purveyor who bore the brunt of the law, as suppliers and clients alike damned her for a sorceress as well as a poisoner. Although hanged for her crimes, La Vecchia dell’Aceto — “The Old Vinegar” — entered instantly into Sicilian folklore; Italian speakers might enjoy Luigi Natoli‘s novel of that title.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Italy,Murder,Public Executions,Sicily,Torture,Witchcraft,Women

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