1944: Georges Suarez, collaborationist editor

Add comment November 9th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1944, the restored French Republic shot the editor of the collaborationist newspaper Aujourd’hui (Today).

Suarez‘s (linked page in French) writings (French again) had endorsed the German occupation and called for steps even beyond what the Germans were prepared to take: the wholesale taking of Anglo hostages as proof against Allied bombing raids, for instance.

His trial and execution were the first of many suffered by pro-Vichy writers and journalists condemned by the vengeful free French courts for their part in the Nazi occupation, especially in the first months after liberation. The public intellectuals of the wartime government were, as a matter of fact, in the dock faster than the government itself.

Alice Kaplan, writing of the more infamous collaborationist writer Robert Brasillach who would follow Suarez’ footsteps in a few weeks, observes:

Writers were easy to try. Their files, crumbling now, are rather thin: clippings of their articles from the collaborationist press, underlined in red and blue ink with an occasional commentary; a report by the prefecture of police outlining their political affiliations and behavior during the Occupation; a list of witnesses called by the defense and the prosecution; interviews of the accused, before the trial, going over the charges against him; letters from friends — and enemies — sent to the judge before the trial. It was easier to organize a case against a journalist than a case against a common-law criminal or a financial collaborator. The bulk of the evidence was in newspaper clippings, quickly compiled.

“Treason is a matter of dates,” Suarez’ lawyer averred, channeling Talleyrand. But at this early date of freedom, not six months after Omaha Beach had been wrenched from German hands, there was much less sympathy for the philosophic vagaries of history than some subsequent writers would enjoy — and there was a good deal of indictable behavior:

Whether they faced the charge of treason or of national indignity, the writers were accused of having espoused numerous elements of Nazi ideology: anti-communism; anti-Semitism; support for the releve (the system designed to send French workers to Germany in exchange for French POWs); support for the Milice (Vichy’s police force); support for the German and French troops fighting the Soviets on the Eastern front; attacks against de Gaulle and the Resistance; participation in collaborationist organizations; trips to Germany during the Occupation, in particular to the International Writers’ Congress at Weimar in 1941.

Philip Watts, Allegories of the Purge

In addition to its noteworthy history in the postwar purge of journalists, Kaplan reports that Suarez’s trial may also have been the first in French history for which women were eligible to serve as jurors — although none of the women in the jury pool were ultimately seated, and the milestone seems not to have been widely noticed even at the time.

The execution itself was badly botched: Suarez is said to have survived both the initial fusillade and a second barrage from the firing squad before a third round finished him off.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,History,Intellectuals,Milestones,Notable Jurisprudence,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Shot,Treason,Wartime Executions

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2008: The Bali Bombers

2 comments November 9th, 2008 Headsman

On this date — mere hours ago as of this writing — three of the most infamous terrorists in two nation’s histories were shot in a jungle clearing on Indonesia’s Nusa Kambangan Island.

“At around 00:15 am (1715 GMT Saturday) the three convicted men on death row, Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, were executed by firing squad,” said attorney general’s office spokesman Jasman Panjaitan.

“The autopsy results show that all three are dead. The family members are now bathing the bodies.” (Source.)

The men were taken from prison and tied to wooden crosses in the Indonesian prison island’s forest, where they were shot simultaneously by three separate firing squads for the October 12, 2002 bomb attack on the island of Bali that claimed 202 lives.

Though taking place in Indonesia, the strike was aimed at westerners vacationing at a tourist hot spot. Eighty-eight Australians were slain, along with 76 other (predominantly European) foreigners. The only shred of regret the late executees ever betrayed was that the infidel body count wasn’t higher.


The mediagenic murderers display a range from insouciant to jocular in most of their photos. The ever-grinning Amrozi — in the middle — was known as the “smiling assassin.”

The three facing death today* have occupied most of the intervening six years endeavoring to transmute their criminal celebrity into the dearer coinage of martyrdom through the doubtful influence of the Philosopher’s Stone mass media.

Despite their body count, burial disturbances, and even the prospect of some follow-up strike by at-large members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a base metal the late bombers will remain. Picture the most fanatical devotee of any cause you care to conjure drawing any enduring inspiration from this juvenile twaddle.

Indonesia has appeared to sidle towards this execution, ginger at inflaming Islamic radicals; Australia, which has no death penalty itself, has been controversially mum and bombing victims and their families conflicted.

It remains to be seen whether the high-profile case has legs among militants. But its undertones of race, religion and national sovereignty are being very closely watched by one group of Australians in particular: the Bali Nine, Australian nationals in Indonesian custody for drug smuggling.

Three of the nine are currently on death row, reportedly “somber” at this day’s shootings — no doubt aware that they could be next.

Update: True to the publicity-savvy rep, Imam Samudra reportedly knocked out a nasheed or nasyid just before his execution that’s now a hot ringtone download.

[audio:Imam_Samudra.mp3]

* A fourth man was also death-sentenced, but that sentence was vacated on appeal.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Australia,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Indonesia,Infamous,Martyrs,Murder,Popular Culture,Religious Figures,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Terrorists

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1911: Charles Justice

9 comments November 9th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1911, Charles Justice was electrocuted by the State of Ohio.

It was an ironic end, since when serving an earlier stint in the state penitentiary shortly after the electric chair was introduced, Justice had hit upon the idea of metal clamps in place of leather straps to more securely hold down the chair’s clientele and avoid burnt flesh.

The improvement, duly implemented, was there awaiting its creator.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Gallows Humor,Murder,Ohio,Theft,USA

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