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Lithograph of a guillotine used in Denmark

A guillotine is a device used in executions, invented by Dr. Joseph Guillotine shortly before the French Revolution. Most guillotines have a heavy blade that is attached to a tall frame. The blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the victim's head. Dr. Guillotine also envisioned it as being used privately as a means to end the death penalty, although ironically, during the French Revolution, it quickly gained notoriety as being a public form of execution.[1]

Dr. Joseph Guillotine envisioned the device as a more humane method of execution. (Previously, only nobles had been beheaded; commoners had been hung.) The French government adopted it as the official execution method.

However, during the Jacobin Reign of Terror amid the French Revolution, the guillotine became a symbol of arbitrary execution as anyone who disagreed with Robespierre's leftist ideology, or even those who were merely accused of subversion, was executed by it. The guillotine remained a tool of capital punishment in France until its last usage in 1977, with the execution of murderer Hamida Dandjoubi.

The guillotine's use wasn't limited to France. It saw somewhat of a revival during the rule of German National Socialism, being the execution method for dissenters after a mock trial. The White Rose resistance leaders were executed through it.

Among famous victims of the guillotine figure Louis XVI, Marie Antoiniette, Sophie Scholl and Hans Scholl.

See also

Notes and references