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The guillotine is a tool used for decapitation.

It consists of a tall upright frame (approx 4m high) in which is suspended a heavy triangular blade (approx 40kg). The blade is hauled to the top of the frame on a stout cord and held in place while the victim has his/her head placed in a restraining bar. The cord is released and the heavy blade falls a distance of 2.3m severing the neck.

The guillotine was first adopted in France during the French Revolution. On April 25, 1792 highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier became the first person executed by guillotine. It takes its name from Joseph-Ignace Guillotin[?], a French doctor, on whose suggestion it was introduced. The basis for his recommendation is believed to have been his perception that it was a humane form of execution. There is some debate over this as some authorities believe that the victim can remain conscious for up to 30 seconds after decapitation. The electric chair and lethal injection have since superseded the guillotine in jurisdictions that practice capital punishment.

In France, executions by guillotine were also regarded as a public entertainment which attracted great crowds of spectators. The last public execution was of Eugene Weidmann, which took place on June 17, 1939 at Versailles. The scandalous behaviour of some of the onlookers on this occasion caused the authorities to decree that executions in the future were to take place in the prison courtyard.

From Napoleonic times, the guillotine was used in many places in Germany. The Nazis employed it extensively: twenty guillotines were in use in Germany and (from 1938) in Austria. As many as 20,000 people may have been executed; for an example see White Rose.

The guillotine was not, however, a French invention -- although Guillotin is often named as its inventor, it had a history as a farm implement used for killing poultry in Germany, England, and Persia before being introduced as a method of capital punishment.

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