Famous Lasts The Last Person to be Guillotined in Public

About the last person to be guillotined in public in France, history and information about the execution.


On June 17, 1939, a murderer, Eugene Weidmann, became the last man to be guillotined publicly in France. Weidmann had been tried and found guilty of strangling a pretty young Brooklyn dancer, Jean De Koven, who was on a visit to Paris as a tourist. Weidmann had taken her on a date, then killed her in his suburban home.

Throughout the night before his execution, Weidmann could hear the mob noisily collecting for the morning's spectacle. In the Rue Georges Clemenceau, in front of the Palais de Justice in Versailles, every room, balcony, and window overlooking the place of execution was rented out at fantastic prices. Even the constant drizzle which soaked the eager sensation-seekers could not deter them from their grisly vigil. At 3:00 A.M., Monsieur Desfourneaux, the executioner, set up the machine. A special force of gendarmes, militia, and inspectors from the Surete closed off all the streets. One cafe proprietor, who was doing an enormous trade, was furious when his clients, happily paying a fortune for a privileged view, found it obstructed by a large police truck parked directly in front of the execution site.

At 4:50 in the morning, the completely calm Weidmann was dispatched with such smooth efficiency that only those with keen eyes saw anything. But the subsequent photographs that graced the front page of every French newspaper so outraged the public that, a week later, a law was issued forbidding any more public executions. As the French murderer Doctor Petiot said just before being guillotined, "Now gentlemen, may I give you a last piece of advice? Turn away. This is not going to be a pleasant sight."

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