The last execution took place after the first Star Wars movie was released.
When you hear of a guillotine execution, you probably think of Marie Antoinette, or King Louis XVI. After all, public beheading was all the rage back in the 1700s and served as an effective way to both execute a criminal and make a public statement.
It was also, apparently, an effective form of execution and social entertainment even as recently as the early 20th century.
That’s right, the last execution by guillotine was carried out on Sept. 10, 1977. That’s a whole five months after the first Star Wars movie debuted in theaters, and around the same time that kids around America were waiting to get their hands on a brand new Atari gaming system.
The execution of Hamida Djandoubi served as the final guillotine execution in France, as corporal punishment was outlawed shortly afterward. Djandoubi was a Tunisian immigrant to France, who was found guilty of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of his girlfriend, French citizen Élisabeth Bousquet. He was also guilty of the kidnapping of several other young girls and holding them in his home.
He was sentenced to death in February of 1977 and appealed twice before ultimately learning that his sentence was being upheld. He was executed at 4:40 a.m. on Sept. 10, in the courtyard of the Baumettes Prison in Marseille, the last person to be executed in the European Union before corporal punishment was outlawed.
Though Djandoubi’s execution was highly publicized, he was executed in relative privacy, due to laws imposed from the chaos of Eugen Weidmann’s execution.
The execution of Eugen Weidmann in 1936, was the last execution performed in public. Weidmann was a German convict who moved to France in the early 1930s, looking for a way to get rich quick.
Along with two of his friends, Weidmann rented a villa in Saint-Cloud, Paris. There, the three men would kidnap rich tourists and steal their money and valuables before ultimately murdering them.
In March of 1939, Weidmann was arrested along with his companions. The two other men were either acquitted of the charges or sentenced to prison time, but Weidmann was not o lucky. He was given the maximum sentence and ordered to be executed, via guillotine, in full view of the public outside the prison.
However, the execution sparked mass chaos, and the “hysterical behavior” exhibited by the public caused French president Albert Lebrun to immediately decree that all future executions be held away from the public eye.
And so they did, until finally, in 1977, the centuries-old tradition of beheading criminals with giant falling blades was brought to an end.