Monday, February 24, 2003


France was not always so civil...

The notebooks of a French executioner who sliced off the heads of almost 400 people will go under the auctioneer's hammer in Paris Wednesday.

Anatole Deibler meticulously charts his work at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century on some 2,000 pages, noting places, dates, the weather, the names and crimes of the condemned and details of their trials.

"At the moment of his execution, (the man) cried out in a loud voice: 'Long live anarchy! Death to the cops!'," he wrote of an execution in 1925.

In choosing his profession, Deibler followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He brought down the guillotine on 395 men and women -- from petty thieves to presidential assassins -- in a career that spanned 40 years.

"He showed himself a meticulous artisan of death, discreet to the point of obsession," notes the Drouot auction house where the sale will take place.

Deibler died of a heart attack on an underground platform in 1939, on his way to another execution. Six months later France banned public executions, confining them to a prison courtyard, where they continued until 1977. France abolished the death penalty in 1981.

The 14 notebooks, in two series entitled "Executions" and "Condemnations," are expected to fetch up to 15,000 euros ($16,000).