Public Figure Profiles

Jules-Henri Desfourneaux

Jules-Henri Desfourneaux (17 December 1877, in Bar-le-Duc – 1 October 1951) was the last French executioner to officiate in public. He came from a long line of executioners named Desfourneaux stretching back many hundreds of years.

Like all French executioners since 1792 the death penalty was carried out by beheading with a guillotine.

Desfourneaux was recruited by his predecessor Anatole Deibler and attended his first execution as second assistant in 1909. Following the death of Deibler in 1939 - the latter having died of a heart attack in a Metro station while en route to his 401st execution - he was elected chief and was in charge of the last public execution in France on June 17, 1939, when he guillotined the five-time murderer Eugène Weidmann.

This execution was also notable as it is one of the few ever filmed, having been shot from a private apartment near the prison.

For reasons unknown, Desfourneaux insisted that Greenwich rather than summertime dawn should be the official hour. This meant that contrary to custom, Weidmann was executed in broad daylight.

This, combined with the public revelry around the jail (cafes were given an all-night licence extension, wine flowed and jazz blared on radios) and the filmed evidence, was largely responsible for the government's decision to hold all future executions behind closed doors.

Desfourneaux was involved in further controversy during World War II when required by the Vichy Government to execute communists and members of the French Resistance, notably Marcel Langer, which led to the resignation of his assistants, André Obrecht, who was his cousin, and the Martin brothers, Georges and Robert. He was also responsible for the first guillotining of women since the late 19th century, including, famously, an abortionist named Marie-Louise Giraud in 1943. He put to death the axe-killer Germaine Godefroy, the last woman executed in France, on April 21, 1949.

Escaping retribution after the war, Desfourneaux increasingly turned to drink, a problem compounded by the suicide of his son. He was rejoined as first assistant in 1945 by Obrecht, who, despite his increasing dislike of Desfourneaux, could see a potential future as chief executioner looming. Further disagreements followed and Obrecht resigned for the second time in 1947.

Desfourneaux continued working until October 1951 when, whilst still in office and almost insane, he died. His eventual successor was Obrecht, who officiated until 1976, one year before the last execution in France; the death penalty was abolished in 1981.

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Some of their strengths

Jules-Henri Desfourneaux has many admirable traits.

Based on spiritual traditions from around the world, they are someone who can be described as Independent, Energetic, Organized, Curious, Intelligent, Extroverted, and Adventurous.

Adventurous and Independent

According to Mysticism’s Astrology tradition, Jules-Henri Desfourneaux is someone who is an adventurous, independent, and energetic person, who is insightful, imaginative, generous, and honest. A person who seems to identify with family, heritage and ancestry.

Strong and Resilient

Based on Daoism’s Ba-Zi or ‘Chinese Zodiac’ tradition, people who know Jules-Henri Desfourneaux well know them as someone who can be strong, expansive, and stable like a big tree.

Independent and Organized

According to Hinduism’s Jyotisha or ‘Vedic Astrology’ tradition, many would also describe Jules-Henri Desfourneaux as someone who is independent, organized, inventive, and generous.

A person who is curious and a loves learning, who seems to always know what to say, who has an optimism that can overcome any difficult situation, and who seems to be able to master almost any skill.

Easygoing and Energetic

Based on the Mayan Tzolk’in or ‘Mayan Astrology’ tradition, Jules-Henri Desfourneaux is someone who has an easygoing nature and a healthy sense of humor, with a mind that requires constant stimulation in order to feel fulfilled.

They are also someone who is confident and creative, and who has a love for starting new projects, inventing new things, and giving back to the community.

Optimistic and Quick-witted

According to Judaism’s Kabbalah tradition, Jules-Henri Desfourneaux tends to be someone who is optimistic and spontaneous, and who has a clear and analytical mind. Who can be witty, with a happy-go-lucky- nature that makes others cheerful, and who possesses an adventurous zest for life.

Some of Jules-Henri Desfourneaux's challenges

While Jules-Henri Desfourneaux has many strengths, nobody is perfect. They also have some challenging traits they need to manage.

For example, Jules-Henri Desfourneaux can be Pleasure-seeking, Impulsive, Careless, Stubborn, Idle, Difficult, and Perfectionist.

Impulsive and Careless

One of Jules-Henri Desfourneaux's key challenges is that they are someone who can be impulsive and careless.

Jules-Henri Desfourneaux must also exercise caution as they can be short-tempered and aggressive.

Domineering and Impatient

Jules-Henri Desfourneaux is someone who can be demanding, egotistical, and controlling, can have a lack of judgment regarding personal finances, be argumentative and stubborn, and who can have a tendency to be withdrawn and spend time in self-imposed isolation.

Irritable and Callous

Finally, Jules-Henri Desfourneaux also can be short-tempered, childish, insensitive, and careless at times.

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