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German History in Documents and Images
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Mechanical Beheading Device built after a Design by Guillotin (1789)
In designing the guillotine, French physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin had actually hoped to make executions more “humane.” His invention would go on to become the symbol of the terreur and the principal means of executing enemies (or supposed enemies) of the Revolution. In 1798, it was briefly introduced in a number of German territories as well. This illustration, published in Germany in 1789, is based on a misunderstanding of Guillotin’s design. Here, the condemned man, who stands upright, is elevated onto a platform, where an executioner is ready to behead him with a sword mounted on a pivot. Etching by Philipp Joseph Fill (?), 1789