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Eugen Weidmann

Eugen Weidmann
Eugen Weidmann in 1937
Born(1908-02-05)5 February 1908
Died17 June 1939(1939-06-17) (aged 31)
Versailles, France
Cause of deathExecution by guillotine
Criminal statusExecuted
MotiveFinancial gain
Conviction(s)Murder (6 counts)
Criminal penaltyDeath
Details
Victims6
Span of crimes
July – November 1937
CountryFrance
Date apprehended
8 December 1937

Eugen Weidmann (5 February 1908 – 17 June 1939) was a German criminal and serial killer who was executed by guillotine in France in June 1939, the last public execution in France.

Early life

Weidmann was born in Frankfurt am Main to the family of an export businessman and went to school there. He was sent to live with his grandparents at the outbreak of World War I. During this time he started stealing. Later in his twenties, he served five years in Saarbrücken jail for robbery.

During his time in jail, Weidmann met two men who would later become his partners in crime: Roger Million and Jean Blanc. After their release from jail, they decided to work together to kidnap rich tourists visiting France and steal their money. They rented a villa in Saint-Cloud near Paris for this purpose.

Murders

Their first kidnapping attempt ended in failure because their victim struggled too hard, forcing them to let him go. In July 1937, they made a second attempt, Weidmann having made the acquaintance of Jean De Koven, a 22-year-old New York City dancer visiting her aunt Ida Sackheim in Paris. Impressed by the tall, handsome German, De Koven wrote to a friend: "I have just met a charming German of keen intelligence who calls himself Siegfried. Perhaps I am going to another Wagnerian role – who knows? I am going to visit him tomorrow at his villa in a beautiful place near a famous mansion that Napoleon gave Josephine." During their meeting they smoked, and "Siegfried" gave her a glass of milk. De Koven took photos of Weidmann with her new camera (later found beside her body; the developed film showed her killer). Weidmann then strangled and buried her in the villa's garden. She had 300 francs in cash and $430 in traveller's cheques, which the group sent Million's mistress, Colette Tricot, to cash. Sackheim received a letter demanding $500 for the return of her niece. De Koven's brother Henry later came to France offering a 10,000-franc reward from his father, Abraham, for information about the young woman.[1]

On 1 September that year, Weidmann hired a chauffeur named Joseph Couffy to drive him to the French Riviera where, in a forest outside Tours, he shot Couffy in the back of his neck and stole his car and 2,500 francs. The next murder came on 3 September, after Weidmann and Million lured Janine Keller, a private nurse, into a cave in the forest of Fontainebleau with a job offer. Weidmann killed Keller with another fatal shot to the back of the neck, before robbing her body of 1,400 francs and a diamond ring. On 16 October, Million and Weidmann arranged a meeting with a young theatrical producer named Roger LeBlond, promising to invest money in one of his shows. Instead, Weidmann shot him in the back of his head and took his wallet containing 5,000 francs. On 22 November, Weidmann murdered and robbed Fritz Frommer, a young German he had met in jail. Frommer, a Jew, had been held there for his anti-Nazi views. Once again, the victim was shot in the back of his neck. His body was buried in the basement of the Saint-Cloud house where De Koven's body was interred. Five days later, Weidmann committed his final murder. Raymond Lesobre, a real estate agent, was shot in the killer's preferred fashion while showing him around a house in Saint-Cloud. Five thousand francs were taken from him.[1]

Arrest

Officers from the Sûreté, led by a young inspector named Primborgne, eventually tracked Weidmann to the villa from a business card left at Lesobre's office. Arriving at his home, Weidmann found two officers waiting for him. Inviting them in, he then turned and fired three times at them with a pistol. Although they were unarmed, the wounded Sûreté men managed to wrestle Weidmann down and knocked him unconscious with a hammer, which happened to be nearby.[1]

Weidmann, a highly cooperative prisoner, confessed to all his murders, including that of de Koven, the only one for which he expressed regret. He is reported to have said tearfully: "She was gentle and unsuspecting.... When I reached for her throat, she went down like a doll."[1]

The murder trial of Weidmann, Million, Blanc and Tricot in Versailles in March 1939 was the biggest since that of Henri Désiré Landru, the modern-day "Bluebeard", 18 years earlier. One of Weidmann's lawyers, Vincent de Moro-Giafferi, had defended Landru. Also present was the French novelist Colette, who was engaged by Paris-Soir to write an essay on Weidmann.[1]

Weidmann and Million received the death sentence, Blanc received a prison sentence of twenty months and Tricot was acquitted. Million's sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Execution

On 17 June 1939, Weidmann was beheaded outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles. The "hysterical behaviour" by spectators was so scandalous that French President Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions. (Executions by guillotine continued out of public view until the last such execution, of Hamida Djandoubi on 10 September 1977.)

Christopher Lee, who was then seventeen years old, witnessed the event. Footage of the execution with him in the frame was eventually restored and used in Faces of Death 3. Nearly half a century later, he portrayed headsman Charles-Henri Sanson in a 1989 French TV drama about the French Revolution, in which his character made prolific use of the device.[2]

See also

Books

  • Beaux Ténèbres – La Pulsion du Mal d'Eugène Weidmann Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine by Michel Ferracci-Porri (Beautiful darkness, The Impulse to Evil of Eugen Weidmann) 412 pages, Editions Normant, France 2008
  • Comments On Cain by F. Tennyson Jesse (New York: Collier Books; London: Collier-Macmillan, Ltd., 1948, 1964), 158p., p. 99–158, "Eugen Weidmann: A Study in Brouhaha". There is a drawing of Weidmann as the frontispiece of the book.
  • Weidmann appears repeatedly as a character in Jean Genet's celebrated debut work "Notre Dame des Fleurs" ("Our Lady of the Flowers"), first published in French by L'Arbalete in 1943.

Chapter "Death On A Quiet Boulevard" in Tom Fallon: "Craftsmen In Crime", published by Frederick Muller Ltd., London 1956.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Flanner, Janet. Paris was Yesterday. 1972. The Viking Press, 1972. Print.
  2. ^ Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee, Orion Publishing Group Ltd., 2004

External links

  • Beaux Ténèbres – La Pulsion du Mal d'Eugène Weidmann Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  • Arbuckle, Alex Q. (4 November 2015). "1939: France's last public execution". Mashable. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  • Video of the execution
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