Last Public Execution by Guillotine


There are some people still alive today who were present at the last public execution in France. Actor Christopher Lee, for instance. In the early morning of 17 June 1939, Eugène Weidmann bowed down before the blade of the guillotine, the last person to do so publicly.

Weidmann was the last person to be executed before a crowd in France. He had been convicted of multiple kidnappings and murders, including that of a young American socialite. His trial was a sensation in that tense summer of 1939; the Frankfurt-born Weidmann was quickly dubbed “Teutonic Vampire” by the tabloids. His execution outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles was a noisy affair.

In the days following the execution, the press was especially indignant at the way the crowd had behaved. Paris-Soir denounced the crowd as“disgusting”, “unruly”, “jostling, clamoring, whistling.” Among the sins the lofty paper found unforgivable was the crowd “devouring sandwiches”. More shockingly for the authorities, the unruly crowd delayed the execution beyond the usual twilight hour of dawn, enabling clear photographs — and one short film! — to be taken. The government regretted that public executions which were intended to have a “moralizing effect” now produced “practically the opposite results.” President LeBrun signed an order to hold executions only behind closed doors.

By this time, France was already an anomaly; the proud tradition of macabre spectacle dating back millennia  was fast becoming forbidden in the West.  Most German states banned public executions in the 1850s. England carried out her last public execution — that of the Fenian agitator Michael Barrett — in 1868, and most of her dominions followed. From then on, momentum was with ban of public executions. Liberal Denmark banned public executions in 1882, and abolished the death penalty altogether in 1933. In 1936, Kentucky became the last American state to ban public executions. 

24 thoughts on “Last Public Execution by Guillotine

  1. Yes, and we all know how crime has dropped since they have banned public executions!
    I say, let the crowds roll in, (Sandwiches and all), Sell beer (!), and produce viral videos for teens to share on Facebook.

    Maybe if we go back to the “Good ol’ days” where a good Hangin made scumbags think about what they were planin to do, crime would be an anomaly and the world would be a decent place to live in.

    I just might start a petition on “Move-on” or “Change.Org’ to bring back Public hangings, public floggings, and the chain gang!

    Also, “penal Brigades” like that of Brigadier Dirlewanger during the Great WW-2 might be a good idea??!! We could use convicts to go out and find mines! (of course we wouldn’t want them to be allowed near real people and who knows, in the end, they might just kill each other off!!!).

    What is a shame though, is that every once in a while some poor innocent basterd is executed by accident and is later proved innocent. That sucks big elephant. SO, maybe there is a compromise in here somewhere? Only time and the ingenuity of our institutions and our great King Pinocchio will tell.

    Your Obt. Svt,
    Col Korn,
    Chief O’ Mayhem, In the Great WW-2 (An tha Cold War)
    Currently Chief O’ Security, Sanitation an the Complaint dept.
    OXOjamm Studios.

    • You are clearly a total arsehole of no intelligence ……….for e.g. how exactly does your preferred system accommodate those “criminals” with mental health issues ?? I say we briefly return to hanging folk, just to hang you & your ridiculous suggestions too.

  2. Doesn’t quite make it to satire or even snark, for that matter. One might consider the hanging times in England at Tyburn, and other locations in England and see how much effect that actually had on crime.

  3. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets
    I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something
    like this. Please let me know if you run into anything.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  4. Appreciating the dedication you put into your
    site and detailed information you present. It’s good to come across
    a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same
    outdated rehashed information. Great read!
    I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  5. Thanks for every other excellent article. The place
    else may just anybody get that type of information in such a perfect approach of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such information.

  6. Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog web site?
    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear concept

  7. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I
    acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing
    to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  8. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it
    was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing.
    Do you have any tips and hints for beginner blog writers?
    I’d definitely appreciate it.

  9. I seldom leave a response, however i did some searching and wound up here Last
    Public Execution by Guillotine | Iconic Photos. And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you usually do not mind.

    Could it be just me or does it seem like a
    few of these comments come across as if they are written by brain dead people?
    😛 And, if you are writing on additional sites,
    I’d like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you list of
    the complete urls of your public sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or
    linkedin profile?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s