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France’s Last Public Beheading

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France’s last public beheading by guillotine took place in June of 1939 in Versailles. Now, 1939 doesn’t seem so long ago when you think about publicly beheading criminals. But the fact that there is video of this occasion is perhaps an even bigger surprise.

Eugen Weidmann was the last person in France to be executed in public outside of Saint-Pierre Prison. The footage was shot from an apartment window adjacent to the jail-house. At the beginning of the film, you can see the crowd gathering in the upper-left corner of the screen.

It’s also remarkable for what it is — a fairly unremarkable video on a time and place when these types of executions were probably fairly commonplace. The three executioners have this down pretty pat. One puts the criminal into the guillotine, one drops the blade and the other swiftly rolls the body into a containment unit. If you can, watch this piece of history:

FYI: The last public execution in the United States took place on August 14, 1936 in Kentucky. Rainey Bethea was hanged in Owensboro, Ky., for rape and murder.

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