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» Economics » Punishment » Death penalty » Executioner

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The executioner (with the sharpness of the sword the arranging), a special occupation, executed from the Middle Ages in 21. Century the death penalty. The term Henker is often called today synonym, although a Henker was original only an executor of an execution by Henken


In the old European people rights (Saxonian right Saxonia mirror, Lex Salica among other things) the execution was often carried out by one the judge, the youngest, or the prosecutor. Also a Fronbote or an office man (also ) as Hinrichter is called, this receives however for the act of the execution no money. Particularly by the Rezeption of the Roman right (Codex Justinianus) in 12. and 13. Century separated gradually the iurisdiction from the execution. From this time originates also the synonym executioner, which lifts the aspect of the after-judicial execution of the judgement into the foreground.

Since at the beginning often released and/or begnadigte big criminals were as it were forced to the practice of the office of an executioner, from the outset this occupation the aura of the grey-full hung on, which was naturally strengthened by the kind of the activity still. As consequence its was outlawed the executioner of the society. So executioners had to live with family, if they were married, before the gates of the city.

The first mention of a Carnifex in Augsburger the municipal law of 1276 occupies already the dishonesty of the occupation, because in old Rome the Carnifex was dishonest and of ill repute already, however its appearance on a celebration been sufficient to entweihen these.


To the direct tasks of the executioner the actual execution and the torture belonged to the confession enforcement as part of the legal proceedings. Also for the execution of body and honour-met was responsible he. Besides it had to take over also often further unpleasant and outlawed tasks - e.g. the Kloakenreinigung, cutting off and the funeral of suicides or the supervision over the prostitutes. Often the office of the Henkers for practical reasons with that of the Abdeckers (other designations are Schinder, Racker or which master) was put together: The animal body utilization provided for financial getting along of the executioner and the taking off he assistants could during an execution assist (Henkersknechte).

Executioners left a torturing, the Henken and (since the French revolution) the killing by the Guillotine often also to their assistant and took over only the supervision. Beheading with the sword or the Henkersbeil (hand axe) was accomplished however by the executioner, since for this fate was necessary: The head should be separated according to possibility with only one impact from the trunk. If that did not succeed, the executioner could become the victim from Lynchjustiz.

Society position

Practically no other occupation way was open to the sons of executioners. Their daughters could marry only in these circles and attend to activities half of ill repute (true legends, dear and damage charms, magic or nature welfare procedures). Heinrich Heine let see through successfully, its first sweetheart from such a family came. Thus formed executioner dynasties, which exhibit various relational entwinements due to the closed marriage circle.

They were seen sociological to a caste, however not in a box, but in a condition company. It was already very heavy for it to win with the Christian baptism godfather. One the most well-known was those the Sansons, which unites the Henker of Paris on four generations and other French cities placed.

Executioners had good medical, above all anatomical knowledge due to their activity. Many used this, in order to secure itself by surgical activities (e.g. straightening shoulders or healing fractures) or the administration of cures of all kinds (under it pretty often ointments from people fat) an additional income. As in 17. and 18. Century in the course of the humanization of the execution of sentences less and less executioners were needed, changed over many member of the former executioner dynasties to related branches of profession such as Bader, Wundarzt or Zahnreisser. This explains the originally large social distance from (highly respected) physicians to surgeons.

One of the last executioners of Germany was Johann realm-hard (1893-1972). During the Weimar Republic and the time of the national socialism he carried out something over 3000 executions with the Guillotine, under it also from Hans and Sophie the Scholl, members of the group of resistances white rose. 156 condemned Nazi sizes henkte it after 1945 on behalf the American military government at the Galgen.

The latter k.u.k. Executioner in Vienna was Josef long. It was a special case, because it came not from an executioner family, but operated before - and also apart from its executioner activity - a coffee house in Vienna, was as such much admits and likes - however nobody knew about its secondary occupation at the beginning.


In countries 21. Century, which still know the death penalty, as e.g. in the USA, the occupation requirements of the executioner changed by the execution tools (electrical chair, Gaskammer, poison syringe). Still the practice of the occupation is detrimental to the social prestige.

See also

  • : Category: Executioner
  • Scaffold
  • Staupenschlag
  • Message


  • H. shoe man: Shape and function of the executioner. Jur. Diss. Bonn 1964.
  • Rainer bar farmer: The thief the Galgen. The emergence of the hanging punishment as tidy execution form in the Germanic right; Diss. Attaining Nuremberg, 1964
  • A. Cellar: "The executioner in German culture history", Bonn and Leipzig, 1921, reproduction Hildesheim 1968
  • Johann Caspar Glenzdorf, Fritz Treichel: Henker, Schinder and poor , bath of mouths at the Deister, 1970.
  • Sergius Golowin: Hexer and Henker in the Galgenfeld; Berne (Benteli) 1970
  • Franz Irsigler/Arnold leaving: Beggar and Gaukler, Dirnen and Henker. Outsider in a medieval city. Munich 1989. Particularly P. 228-282.
  • Mark-wait duke: Sharp-judicial medicine. To the relations between Henker and physician, scaffold and medicine; in: Medicine-historical journal 29 (1994), 309-331
  • Jutta Nowosadtko: Executioner and Abdecker. The old day of two "dishonest occupations" in the early modern times. Paderborn 1994.
  • P. Pechacek: Executioner and which master. 2003.

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