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1930s & Earlier / Last Public Guillotine Execution 1939
Beginning in 1793, death by guillotine was the official method of capital punishment in France. Public executions were the norm and attracted large, enthusiastic crowds. The last criminal to be publicly executed in France was multiple murderer Eugen Weidmann who lost his head on June 17, 1939. His execution was clandestinely filmed by a spectator from his apartment window. (This photo is a frame of that film.) The wild exuberance of the crowd prompted the French government to cease all further public executions. Still, the death penalty remained on the books in France until 1981. The last guillotine customer was torture-murderer Hamida Djandoubi who assumed room temperature, away from the eyes of the public, on September 10, 1977.