Guillotine

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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. 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 resistence leaders were executed through it.

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


See also