“Here he looks in my direction; I see his face and understand everything.” From Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“He beheaded 200 criminals…”, this is the title of an article published by Spanish El Mundo. Meyssonnier praises the invention by monsieur Joseph Guillotin. He himself, already suffering from liver cancer, isn't afraid of death. “…Everything happened very quickly. Just three seconds separated the base of the guillotine from the blade raised above it. However, an hour of suspense and strained, pressing silence were unbearable. And when the blade dropped, I gave a shout. Then blood gushed out of the wound, and several streamlets ran from the carotid artery. I don’t mean that these are things men can get used to; however, when you know what your objective is, you concentrate on the job only.”
“He beheaded 200 criminals…”, this is the title of an article published by Spanish El Mundo. The subtitle says that he felt no remorse, but he will hardly forget the first execution he saw at the age of 16 in Algeria. His father was an executioner as well. Meyssonnier praises the invention by monsieur Joseph Guillotin.”
He describes the first execution he saw: “…Everything happened very quickly. Just three seconds separated the base if tge guillotine from the blade raised above it. However, an hour of suspense and strained, pressing silence were unbearable. And when the blade dropped, I gave a shout. Then blood gushed out of the wound, and several streamlets ran from the carotid artery. I don’t mean that these are things men can get used to; however, when you know what your objective is, you concentrate on the job only.”
The jof an executioner and the phenomenon of an executioner are the themes of Christine Frade’s article; the author describes the life of Fernand Meyssonnier.
The first execution Fernand Meyssonnier saw is his most vivid recollection. When he was sixteen, his father was the chief executioner in Algeria, who beheaded 300 criminals within 30 years (1928 – 1958). His son was a good successor: he beheaded no less than 200 people.
Meyssonnier the son happened to work mostly in the time when Algeria’s people rebelled and started a national liberation struggle against the French colonialism. He himself was a so-called pieds-noirs, an Algerian of French origin.
Fernand Meyssonnier reached the age of 72. El Mundo doesn’t describe him as a sadist or a bloodthirsty murderer; on the contrary, the executioner is described as an opera and ballet lover; it is said he was a strong champion of justice, a resourceful businessman, and the founder of a museum. And what is strange, “ a humane attitude toward people” was in his nature.
Fernand Meyssonnier described his life in the book (Paroles de bourreau). For instance, he says he preferred the job of an executioner “because of the privileges it provided” (status in the society, body guards, paid vacations, friendship with important figures, ect.) On the whole, executioners never were hard up; Meyssonnier the father owned a restaurant, which brought in a good income good for the family. We would like to quote a bit more from the book. Fernand Meyssonnier tells about the attitude he originally felt to the job of an executioner: “it is like a life-long subsidy granted in exchange for some definite services, which meant the execution of two or three men per year on average." He says he felt no pleasure in the job, but strongly believed in the necessity of punishment. “I executed a sentence, but no matter how guilty the sentenced was, I never felt hatred against him. At the same time, I never demonstrated weakness, because I thought about his victims whom he probably tortured and about their relatives. I am proud I was a punitive instrument of justice.”
However, the executioner says he sometimes acted in his own way: “When several communists were sentenced to death for posting leaflets in the streets, I couldn’t execute the punishment. I said I was unwell and stayed home.”
As we know perfectly well, even justice commits errors, and Fernand Meyssonnier was perfectly sure that it was much better to save the lives of 99 criminals than execute one innocent man.”
The executioner says that the mentality of people has changed; they have become more advanced and sensitive, and for this very reason, many countries gave up the death sentence.
“I always knew whom I executed and for what crime. And if the government entrusts us with this hard and sad duty, it means that we are considered just, honest, and not spiteful toward anyone.” However, El Mundo wrote: “ Meyssonnier the son describes the ritual of execution so vividly that it gives shivers to readers.” At the same time, both the father and the son always stuck to one principle: they executed their job as quick and neatly as possible to alleviate the suffering of the sentenced.”
By the age of 72, Fernand Meyssonnier already suffered from liver cancer and said at that, “Ha-ha! May I, the man who beheaded 200 criminals, be afraid of death? This would be absurd.”
Some time ago, PRAVDA.Ru touched upon the issue of the death sentence in Russia and asked readers to give their opinions on the subject. We got many letters, and published the most interesting ones. This time, we would like you to join the discussion and give answers give your opinion.
Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/10/02/47891.html