A rumour was enough to be sentenced to death.

Leo

It is strange how you can come across some stories. I was actually doing some research on the fate of the pets of Jews during the Holocaust, when a picture came up of Leo Katzenberger. What drew my attention to the picture was the fact that Leo looked a lot like one of my Uncles who was also called Leo, now my uncle wasn’t a particularly nice man, where Leo Katzenberger by all accounts was a good neighbor and a good man. But why his picture came up in the place I don’t know.perhaps it is because of his last name.

The story of Leo is a disturbing one and although I don’t like drawing parallels with the Holocaust and current state of affairs, I can’t but help seeing some similarities. The holocaust did not happen overnight ,it was a gradual process, Conditions were created without being properly challenged,conditions which eventually resulted in mass destruction of innocent human lives. It only takes a rumour nowadays to get a person convicted, but today the courts are set in social media, People might not realize it but the Holocaust started by slowly picking on people, making false accusation creating the perfect situations to single out scapegoats.

The Katzenberg tral is a chilling example of what can happen.

Leo Katzenberger was a well known  Jewish businessman in Nuremberg he was the owner of a wholesale shoe business and a number of stores throughout the south Germany, he was also  a leading figure in the Nuremberg Jewish community. Early 1932, he rented out  an apartment and a small storefront in his building at 19 Spittlertorgraben to Irene Seiler, a  daughter of a non-Jewish friend. Although Katzenberger’s business was ‘Aryanized’in 1938, he was still fairly comfortable and still kept his own building and rent space to Seiler.

irene

In March 1942, Katzenberger, aged  76 at the time , and Seiler, who was 30, were accused of having a sexual affair and  were  arrested on charges of racial defilement (Rassenschande).

Both Katzenberger and  Seiler,stated that their friendship was platonic and claimed the relationship between them was more that of a father and daughter, and the only “evidence” was the testimony of a single witness who had seen him leaving her apartment.The investigating judge concluded there was too little evidence to proceed with the case.However the case had come to  the attention of Oswald Rothaug, a judge known for his severity and fanatic support of the Nazi party, Rothaug arranged for the case to be brought to him.

Rothaug

Rothaug knew the trial would create massive publicity and there turned out to be great public interest in the proceedings. The courthouse  was full both trial days. In what was a deliberately set up show trial, Rothaug made remarks about Katzenberger  like “syphilitic Jew” and an “agent of world Jewry.”

Given the fact the trial only last 2 days it was clear there was only going to be 1 outcome. Katzenberger was sentenced to death for race defilement .The usual sentence for this ‘ crime’ would have been a term of imprisonment of several years. But, the Volkschädlingsgesetz, a wartime law, which allowed  the death penalty because it was claimed that Katzenberger used the wartime black outs to visit Seiler.

Irene Seiler was found guilty of perjury for denying an affair had taken place and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment

Leo Katzenberger was killed by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison in Munich on 2 June 1942.

But Even among some Nazi officials, the very weak evidence used  and grounds on which Katzenberger had been sentenced to death caused some discomfort.

 

 

 

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Sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/katzenberger-case-march-13-1942

March 18: On Trial for “Racial Defilement”

Therese Brandl- Evil knows no gender.

Brandl

When you Google the name Therese Brandl, one of the first results you get is a mention of her name in IMDb(Internet Movie Database) as one of the cast members of the 1945 documentary “Auschwitz Krakow Trial 1947″ .

I don’t criticize IMDb for categorizing her as a cast member because that is how the website is set up. In reality Therese Brandl was a staff member of some of the most evil and vile places ever to be built. Ravensbrück,Auschwitz” and Muehldorf which was a sub camp of Dachau.

Auschwitz

She had began training at Ravensbrück in 1940. She worked as an SS Aufseherin in KZ Ravensbrück before transferring to Auschwitz in 1942 and then to the KZ Muehldorf (a satellite camp of Dachau). She beat her prisoners and made selections for the gas chambers. In the summer of 1943, she received a medal from the Reich for her “good conduct” in the camps.
One of the survivors gave an example of how evil she was, the survivor was Andreas Larinciakos, he was 9 years old when he encountered her.

“While in the camp, Doctor Mengele took my blood many times. In November 1944, all children were transferred to Camp A, the gypsy camp. When they counted us, one was found missing,  Mandl, SS-Lagerführerin of the women’s camp and her assistant, Brandl, drove us out into the street at one in the morning and made us stand there in the frost until noon the next day”

Brandl fled Muehldorf in late April 1945 but was arrested in Bavaria 4 months later on August 29,1945 by the US Army. she was put on trial in the Auschwitz Trial at Kraków.,on 22 December 1947.

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She was sentenced to death and hanged on 28 January 1948, just a few days before her 46th birthday.

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Yad Vashem

 

The few times when justice was served.

trial

So many involved in the Nazi atrocities did get off so lightly or escaped punishment altogether. How the judges in the war crimes trials came to some of the sentences or lack thereof has always been a puzzle to me.

Additionally there were also many how fled to countries where they knew they would face little or no chance of ever being extradited.Others took the easy way out by killing themselves.

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In my opinion, and I want emphasize the fact that it is my opinion, there could have only been one sentence, the death sentence. Regardless what their rank or involvement was, if they knew about the atrocities, and all of them did, they were either actively involved in the killings or were complacent,either way they were responsible.

I have heard the argument that some of them had no choice. But there is always a choice, and if you can’t make that choice then you have to face the consequences of your actions or inaction.

However there were some who did get what they deserved below are examples of just a few of them.

General Anton Dostler

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The General, Commander of the 75th Army Corps, was sentenced to death by an United States Military Commission in Rome for having ordered the shooting of 15 unarmed American prisoners of war, in La Spezia, Italy, on March 26. He was executed on December 1, 1945 by a firing squad in a stockade in Aversa, Italy.

Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling

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In the course of the Dachau Trials following the liberation of the camp at the close of the war, Schilling was tried by a U.S. General Military Court, appointed at November 2 1945. He was convicted of using 1,200 concentration camp prisoners for malaria experimentation. Thirty died directly from the inoculations and 300 to 400 died later from complications of the disease. His experiments, all with unwilling subjects, began in 1942.The tribunal sentenced Schilling to death by hanging on 13 December 1945. His execution took place at Landsberg Prison in Landsberg am Lech on 28 May 1946.

Max Blokzijl

Max Blokzijl

Max Blokzijl was a Dutch singer and journalist. Following the German occupation of the Netherlands Blokzijl was executed for his collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Blokzijl  was the effective head of the  Nazi controlled press in the Netherlands. He also broadcast pro-Nazi shows on Radio Hilversum which were particularly noted for the strength of their anti-British sentiment.

On 16 March 1946 Blokzijl became the first Dutch collaborator to be executed, by firing squad in Scheveningen.

Rudolf Mynzak, Wilhelm Mueller and Kurt Kleiwitz.

Rudolf Mynzak, Wilhelm Mueller and Kurt Kleiwitz.

Three of the 19 camp guards tried and convicted by a general military court at Dachau for atrocities committed at Mauthasen.

Ans van Dijk

Ans van Dijk

Ans van Dijk  was a Dutch-Jewish collaborator who betrayed Jews to Nazi Germany during World War II. She was the only Dutch woman to be executed for her wartime activities.

On 14 January 1948 she was executed by firing squad at Fort Bijlmer in the then municipality Weesperkarspel (now the Bijlmermeer municipality of Amsterdam). The night before her execution she was baptized and joined the Roman Catholic Church.

Rudolf Hoess

Rudolf Hoess the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, is hanged next to the crematorium at the camp, 1947 (1)

During his trial in Poland, although he never  denied that he had committed crimes, he claimed that he had only been following orders. He knew exactly what  fate  awaited him. To the end, Hoess contended that, at the most, a million and a half people had died at Auschwitz, not 5 or 6 million. He he requested the court’s permission to send his wedding ring to his wife,at the end of the trial. Hoess was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 April 1947. The sentence was carried out on 16 April immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. The gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the location of the camp Gestapo.

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The hanging of James Pratt and John Smith- A Darker Dickens story

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On the 27th of November 1835, a crowd of people gathered outside Newgate prison in the City of London to watch the first hanging there in two years.

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James Pratt (1805–1835) also known as John Pratt, and John Smith (1795–1835) were two London men who, in November 1835, became the last two to be executed for sodomy in England. Pratt and Smith were arrested in August of that year after being convicted of having sex in the room of another man, William Bonill.

“The grave will soon close over me,” Smith allegedly wrote to a friend before his hanging, “and my name [be] entirely forgotten.”

But that was not altogether true.

Unbeknownst to the sufferers, they were destined for literary preservation by a young writer on the make, one Charles Dickens:

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Smith and Pratt make an appearance in Dickens’ Sketches by Boz, an 1836 compilation of London scenes of which “A Visit to Newgate” is perhaps the best-known.

The last Saturday of August 1835 was a beautiful hot day. James Pratt (30) left his wife and two young daughters in Deptford, searching for work – promising to return by 6pm. He was a labourer and needed a better job.

Pratt first visited his aunt in Holborn, before heading to Blackfriars. His aunt thought he’d had too much to drink and needed a rest, but he pressed on. In an ale house he met John Smith, a labourer aged 40, and William Bonill (sometimes spelled Bonell), aged 68. Neither could offer him a job to improve his financial situation but their company was hospitable. Bonill invited Pratt and Smith back to his rented flat and they accepted.

Little did they know as they made their way to his premises in nearby George Street, that this encounter would result in their execution – and that Bonill would be banished to the penal colony of Australia – all within a mere three months.

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William Bonill, aged 68, had lived for 13 months in a rented room at a house near the Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London. His landlord later stated that Bonill had frequent male visitors, who generally came in pairs, and that his suspicions became aroused on the afternoon of 29 August 1835, when Pratt and Smith came to visit Bonill. The landlord climbed to an outside vantage point in the loft of a nearby stable building, where he could see through the window of Bonill’s room, before coming down to look into the room through the keyhole. Both the landlord and his wife later claimed they both looked through the keyhole and saw sexual intimacy between Pratt and Smith, so the landlord broke open the door to confront them. Bonill was absent, but returned a few minutes later with a jug of ale. The landlord went to fetch a policeman and all three men were arrested.

Pratt and Smith were charged with ‘buggery’  and Bonill as an accessory. They went on trial for their lives before Judge Baron Gurney at the Old Bailey on 21 September 1835.

NPG D8412,Sir John Gurney,after Unknown artist

William Bonill was convicted as an accessory and sentenced to 14 years of penal transportation. James Pratt was a groom,who lived with his wife and children at Deptford, London. A number of witnesses came forward to testify to his good character.

 John Smith was from Southwark Christchurch and was described in court proceedings and newspaper reports as an unmarried labourer although other sources state he was married and worked as a servant. At the trial, no character witnesses came forward to testify on his behalf.

The conviction of the three men rested entirely on what the landlord and his wife claimed to have witnessed through the keyhole; there was no other evidence against them. One modern commentator has cast doubt on their testimony, based on the narrow field of vision afforded by a keyhole and the range of acts the couple claimed to have witnessed during the brief length of time they were looking.

The arresting police officer had no material evidence to support the charge. The account that Jane Berkshire told the jury is improbable. She said she watched for less minute but claimed to have witnessed the alleged sex acts, from the men undressing to laying on the floor and the “appearance” of anal penetration. She said she saw the men’s private parts but did not answer when asked whether either man had an erection. It seems doubtful that the keyhole could have provided the range of vision needed to see what she claimed.

The magistrate Hensleigh Wedgwood, who had committed the three men to trial,

Hensleigh_Wedgwood_spiritualist.pngsubsequently wrote to the Home Secretary, Lord John Russel, arguing for the commutation of the death sentences, stating:

“It is the only crime where there is no injury done to any individual and in consequence it requires a very small expense to commit it in so private a manner and to take such precautions as shall render conviction impossible. It is also the only capital crime that is committed by rich men but owing to the circumstances I have mentioned they are never convicted.”

Wedgwood described the men as “degraded creatures” in another letter. Nevertheless, he argued that the law was unfair in their case as wealthy men who wished to have sex could easily afford a private space in which to do it with virtually no chance of discovery. Pratt and Smith were condemned only because they could only afford to use a room in a lodging house, in which they were easily spied upon.

On 5 November 1835, Charles Dickens and the newspaper editor John Black visited Newgate Prison; Dickens wrote an account of this in Sketches by Boz and described seeing Pratt and Smith while they were being held there.

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“The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One of them, who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other was leaning on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him, and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on counting the chinks in the opposite wall.”

— A Visit to Newgate

The jailer who was escorting Dickens confidently predicted to him that the two would be executed and was proven correct. Seventeen individuals were sentenced to death at the September and October sessions of the Central Criminal Court for offences that included burglary, robbery and attempted murder.

On 21 November, all were granted remission of their death sentences under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy with the exceptions of Pratt and Smith.This was despite an appeal for mercy submitted by the men’s wives that was heard by the Privy Council.

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Pratt and Smith were hanged in front of Newgate Prison on the morning of 27 November. The crowd of spectators was described in a newspaper report as larger than usual;this was possibly because the hanging was the first to have taken place at Newgate in nearly two years. The event was sufficiently notable for a printed broadside to be published and sold.

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This described the men’s trial and included the purported text of a final letter that was claimed to have been written by John Smith to a friend.

William Bonill was one of 290 prisoners transported to Australia on the ship Asia, which departed England on 5 November 1835 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) on 21 February 1836.Bonill died at the New Norfolk Hospital in Van Diemen’s Land on 29 April 1841

 

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I sentence you to death by Elephant

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Execution by elephant was a common method of capital punishment in South and Southeast Asia, particularly in India, where Asian elephants were used to crush, dismember, or torture captives in public executions. The animals were trained and versatile, able to kill victims immediately or to torture them slowly over a prolonged period. Most commonly employed by royalty, the elephants were used to signify both the ruler’s absolute power and his ability to control wild animals.

 

The sight of elephants executing captives both horrified and attracted the interest of European travelers, and was recorded in numerous contemporary journals and accounts of life in Asia. The practice was eventually suppressed by the European empires that colonised the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. While primarily confined to Asia, the practice was occasionally adopted by Western powers, such as Ancient Rome and Carthage, particularly to deal with mutinous soldiers.

Elephants have played a number of important roles in human history. In some cultures, the elephant is a revered creature. In Buddhism, for example, the vivid dream of Buddha’s mother which foretold her pregnancy had a white elephant in it.  Other cultures used the elephant’s great strength and power in battle, or for huge construction projects. There are many examples of these activities – ranging from Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with his 34 African elephants in 218 BC, to the use of these creatures in the construction of Angkor Wat in the 12th century AD. However, it is perhaps less well-known that elephants were also used as deadly executioners.

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Execution by elephant was a form of capital punishment and a weapon of war for certain societies of the past. This method of punishment was occasionally used in the Western world, as several examples can be found in the ancient sources. For example, in the Historiae Alexandri Magni , the Roman historian Quintus Rufus Curtius wrote:

“Then Perdiccas, seeing them paralyzed and in his power, separated from the rest about thirty who had followed Meleager when he rushed forth from the first assembly which was held after the death of Alexander, and in the sight of the whole army cast them before the elephants. All were trampled to death by the feet of the beasts…”

Nevertheless, this was not a common method of execution in the West. On the other hand, execution by elephant was more frequently used in South and Southeast Asia, especially in India. This form of capital punishment is known also as gunga rao , and has been used since the Middle Ages.

The popularity of this mode of execution continued into the 19th century, and it was only with the increasing presence of the British in India that the popularity of this brutal penalty went into decline

The most common way that the execution by elephant was carried out was for the beasts to crush its victim to death with brute force. Apart from enemy soldiers, civilians who commit certain crimes could also be punished in this way. These crimes included theft, tax evasion and rebellion. There are many wild beasts that could be used to kill a criminal – tigers, lions, crocodiles, snakes, etc. Yet, the choice of the elephant shows that there was something unique about this creature.

Compared to many other wild animals, the elephant is considered to be a smart and easily trainable. In addition, elephants could also be taught to torture criminals, or to execute them slowly. As an example, an elephant could be commanded to break a criminal’s limbs before ending his suffering by crushing his skull.

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Another example can be found in the account of François Bernier, a French traveler who witnessed an execution by elephant in Delhi during the reign of the Mughals. According to the Frenchman, the elephants were trained to slice criminals to pieces with “pointed blades fitted to their tusks”. Furthermore, the training of elephants could be used as a means of demonstrating a ruler’s control over the forces of nature.

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Apart from India, execution by elephant was also practiced in some other Asian countries. Like India, it was the elephant’s intelligence and brute force that were exploited to execute criminals. Yet, there were some variations in the method of execution. In neighboring Sri Lanka, for instance, elephants used during these events were said to have been fitted with sharp tips on their tusks. Instead of slicing their victims, the elephant would stab its victim, and then ‘rearrange’ its victim’s internal organs.

In the former Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand), elephants were trained to toss their victims into the air before crushing them to death. In the Kingdom of Cochinchina (southern Vietnam), on the other hand, criminals were tied to a stake, whilst an elephant would charge into them, and crush them to death.

 

William Kemmler-First execution by electric chair.

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At Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution in history was carried out against William Kemmler, who had been convicted of murdering his lover, Matilda Ziegler, with an axe.

William Kemmler was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents were immigrants from Germany and both of them were alcoholics.After dropping out of school at age 10, having learned neither how to read nor write, Kemmler worked in his father’s butcher shop. His father died from an infection that he received after a drunken brawl and his mother died from complications of alcoholism. After his parents died, he went into the peddling business and earned enough money to buy a horse and cart, although at this point he was becoming a heavy drinker.

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In one episode involving him and his friends after a series of drunken binges, he said he could jump his horse and cart over an eight-foot fence with the cart attached to the horse. The attempt was a failure, and his cart and goods destroyed in the incident. He was known to friends as “Philadelphia Billy” due to his drinking binges that were very well known around the saloons in his Buffalo neighborhood. Kemmler was reportedly slender, with dark brown hair. He spoke both English and German.

Electrocution as a humane means of execution was first suggested in 1881 by Dr. Albert Southwick, a dentist.

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Southwick had witnessed an elderly drunkard “painlessly” killed after touching the terminals of an electrical generator in Buffalo, New York. In the prevalent form of execution at the time–death by hanging–the condemned were known to hang by their broken necks for up to 30 minutes before succumbing to asphyxiation.

In 1889, New York’s Electrical Execution Law, the first of its kind in the world, went into effect, and Edwin R. Davis, the Auburn Prison electrician, was commissioned to design an electric chair. Closely resembling the modern device, Davis’ chair was fitted with two electrodes, which were composed of metal disks held together with rubber and covered with a damp sponge. The electrodes were to be applied to the criminal’s head and back.

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On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler became the first person to be sent to the chair. After he was strapped in, a charge of approximately 700 volts was delivered for only 17 seconds before the current failed. Although witnesses reported smelling burnt clothing and charred flesh, Kemmler was far from dead, and a second shock was prepared. The second charge was 1,030 volts and applied for about two minutes, whereupon smoke was observed coming from the head of Kemmler, who was clearly deceased. An autopsy showed that the electrode attached to his back had burned through to the spine.

Dr. Southwick applauded Kemmler’s execution with the declaration, “We live in a higher civilization from this day on,” while American inventor George Westinghouse, an innovator of the use of electricity, remarked, “They would have done better with an axe.”

 

The last public execution by Guillotine.

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Eugen Weidmann (February 5, 1908 – June 17, 1939) was a German criminal who was executed by guillotine in France, the last public execution in that country

On June 17, 1939, Weidmann was beheaded outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles. The “hysterical behaviour” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions. Unknown to authorities, film of the execution was shot from a private apartment adjacent to the prison. British actor Christopher Lee – who was 17 at the time – witnessed the event.

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He would later go on to play headsman Charles-Henri Sanson in a French TV drama about the French Revolution, in which his character made prolific use of the device.

Beginning with the botched kidnapping of an American tourist, the inspiring dancer Jean de Koven, Eugène Weidmann murdered two women and four men in the Paris area in 1937. His other victims included a woman lured by the false offer of a position as a governess; a chauffeur; a publicity agent; a real estate broker; and a man Weidmann had met as an inmate in a German prison. On the surface, his crimes seemed in most cases to have had a profit motive, but they generally brought him very small winnings. Born in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1908, Weidmann early showed himself to be an incorrigible criminal. He had been sent to a juvenile detention facility and then served prison terms for theft and burglary in Canada and Germany prior to his arrival in Paris in 1937.

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Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 2

After a sensational and much-covered trial, Weidmann was sentenced to death. On the morning of June 17, 1939, Weidmann was taken out in front of the Prison Saint-Pierre, where a guillotine and a clamoring, whistling crowd awaited him. Among the attendees was future acting legend Christopher Lee, then 17 years old. Weidmann was placed into the guillotine, and France’s chief executioner Jules-Henri Desfourneaux let the blade fall without delay.

Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 3

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Rather then react with solemn observance, the crowd behaved rowdily, using handkerchiefs to dab up Weidmann’s blood as souvenirs. Paris-Soir denounced the crowd as “disgusting”, “unruly”, “jostling, clamoring, whistling”. The unruly crowd delayed the execution beyond the usual twilight hour of dawn, enabling clear photographs and one short film to be taken.

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After the event the authorities finally came to believe that “far from serving as a deterrent and having salutary effects on the crowds” the public execution “promoted baser instincts of human nature and encouraged general rowdiness and bad behavior”. The “hysterical behavior” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions.

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Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 4

Guillotine was the only mean of execution that the French republic had ever known, the device was in service from 1792 to 1977. For almost 200 years the guillotine executed tens of thousands of culprits (or not) without ever failing to deliver a quick and painless death.

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While it is easy to see the guillotine as barbaric, it is actually a lot less gruesome than it looks. Capital punishment was very common in pre-revolutionary France. For nobles, the typical method of execution was beheading; for commoners, it was usually hanging, but less common and crueler sentences were also practiced. When Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the new method of execution to the National Assembly, it was meant to be more humane than previous capital punishments and also to be an equal method of death for all criminals regardless of rank.

Compared to many forms of capital punishment practiced to this day, the guillotine remains one of the best if we are judging based on pain and “cleanness”. In fact, the guillotine was developed with the idea of creating the most humane way to execute people. The condemned don’t feel pain, death is almost instantaneous and there are very few ways for things to be botched. The head of the victim remains alive for about 10-13 seconds, depending on the glucose and blood levels in his brain at the time. However, the head is believed to be more than likely knocked unconscious by the force of the blow and blood loss.

The Execution of Marie Antoinette

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This day 225 years ago the last Queen of France was executed.

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1755, Marie Antoinette married the future French king Louis XVI when she was just 15 years old.

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The young couple soon came to symbolize all of the excesses of the reviled French monarchy, and Marie Antoinette herself became the target of a great deal of vicious gossip. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the royal family was forced to live under the supervision of revolutionary authorities. In 1793, the king was executed; then, Marie Antoinette was arrested and tried for trumped-up crimes against the French republic. She was convicted and sent to the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

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Marie Antoinette was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14 October 1793.

Some historians believe the outcome of the trial had been decided in advance by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered. She and her lawyers were given less than one day to prepare her defense. Among the accusations, many previously published in the libelles, were: orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, planning the massacre of the “gardes françaises” (National Guards) in 1792,declaring her son to be the new king of France, and—by her son Louis Charles himself (pushed by radical elements who controlled him)—of incest. This last accusation drew an emotional response from Marie Antoinette, who refused to respond to this charge and, instead, called on all mothers present in the room: their reaction brought her comfort since these women were not sympathetic to her.

Early on 16 October, Marie Antoinette was declared guilty of the three main charges against her: depletion of the national treasury, conspiracy against the internal and external security of the State, intelligence with the enemy, this one alone being enough to condemn her to death.At worst, she and her lawyers had expected life imprisonment. In the hours left to her, she composed a letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith, and her love and concern for her children.

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The letter did not reach Élisabeth.Preparing for her execution, she had to change clothes in front of her guards. She put on a plain white dress, white being the color worn by widowed queens of France. Her hair was shorn, her hands bound painfully behind her back and she was leashed with a rope. Unlike her husband, who had been taken to his execution in a carriage, she had to sit in an open cart. In the hour-long trip from the Conciergerie via the rue Saint-Honoré thoroughfare to the guillotine erected Place de la Révolution, (present-day Place de la Concorde), she maintained her composure, despite the insults of the jeering crowd calling herAutrichienne (Autri referring to her Austrian ethnicity, while chienne in French is a female dog: bitch). Some in the crowd remained silent.For her final confession, a constitutional priest was assigned to her. He sat by her in the cart, and she ignored him all the way to the scaffold.

Marie Antoinette was guillotined at 12:15 p.m. on 16 October 1793. Her last words were “Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it”, to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing to the scaffold.

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Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery located close by, rue d’Anjou. Because of saturation, the cemetery was closed the following year, on 25 March 1794.

Both Marie Antoinette’s and Louis XVI’s bodies were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when the comte de Provence had ascended the newly reestablished throne as Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre. Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on 21 January, in the necropolis of French kings at the Basilica of St Denis.

Long after her death, Marie Antoinette remains a major historical figure linked with conservatism, the Catholic Church, wealth, and fashion. She has been the subject of a quantity of books, films and other forms of media. Politically engaged authors have deemed her the quintessential representative of class conflict, western aristocracy and absolutism. Some of her contemporaries, such as Jefferson, attributed to her the start of the French Revolution. For others, Marie Antoinette was a victim of her family ambition and the general situation in France. However, even her critics have recognized her qualities as a mother and her courage in dying.

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