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Sale of guillotine divides France

Sale of guillotine divides France

FRANCE: A 150-year-old guillotine with “a few dents on the blade” was sold in Paris last Wednesday (July 11) despite protests from auction regulators.

culture
By AFP

Thursday 19 July 2018, 03:02PM


A guillotine is pictured in its auction room in Nantes, western France. Photo: Damien Meyer / AFP

A guillotine is pictured in its auction room in Nantes, western France. Photo: Damien Meyer / AFP

The 10-foot tall instrument of execution which was used to dispatch criminals in France until 1977 was bought by a French millionaire for 8,008 euros (B311,791).

The Drouot auction house insisted that the model was built as a replica and has never been used to behead anyone, although it did once feature in a museum of torture in the French capital.

The sale of guillotines has been highly controversial in France where the death penalty was only abolished in 1981, with the French auction watchdog already objecting to the sale.

“They should not be selling this guillotine,” a spokesman told the Parisien newspaper. “Objects like the clothes of people who were deported to the (Nazi death) camps and instruments of torture are sensitive.”

That did not, however, stop another going for 220,000 euros (B8.56 million) in the same saleroom in 2011 when US pop star Lady Gaga was reportedly among the bidders.

Nor did the watchdog have the power to stop the auction because the guillotine – which previously graced a Paris jazz club – is part of a bankruptcy sale.

The replica apparatus, which dates from the mid-19th century, went after two minutes of bidding last Wednesday to Christophe Fevrier, a maverick French industrialist.

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But not all guillotines that have come to market have been sold. Another one valued at 40,000 euros (B1.55mn) failed to sell in the western city of Nantes four years ago.

And in 2012 the French culture ministry stepped in to stop the sale of 812 objects belonging to the last French executioner in Algiers.

Fernand Meyssonnier had executed 200 people there when it was part of France, most of them fighters for Algerian independence.

Guillotines, sometimes known as “The National Razor” (Le Rasoir National) or “The Patriotic Shortener” (La Raccourcisseuse Patriotique) in French, were first adopted as a “humane” alternative to hanging, when many of the condemned had long, lingering deaths on the scaffold.

They became notorious in the Terror that followed the French Revolution when more than 16,000 people were beheaded between the summers of 1793 and 1794.

The last person to die on the guillotine in France was Tunisian Hamida Djandoubi, who was executed in a Marseille prison in September 1977 after being convicted of the torture and murder of a young woman.

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