The Faithful Executioner by Joel Harrington

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Who knew being an executioner for 45 years would be depressing?

Quick synopsis: A biography of Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg who was an executioner for 45 years and executed 394 people.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Executing was a family affair, literally. If you were an executioner, you passed it on to your child like a trust fund.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: How did Schmidt’s dad become an executioner? They pulled him out of the crowd and made him do it. Executioners and their families were shunned so that sucked.

My Take: Sometimes the best books are about people you never would have heard of otherwise. This is one of those books.

Frantz Schmidt was an executioner. The mantle was passed from his father who was plucked out of a crowd to be the new executioner. Officials needed to do that because no one wants to be an executioner. Besides the whole killing thing, it also brought shame to your family and you were shunned by the populace. So much for respecting civil servants.

Schmidt left a journal which gives Harrington amazing insight into his life and activities. It also talks about how Schmidt tried to have the stigma erased from his family line once he retired from executions. Turns out that is much harder than one would expect.

Want to know what else is hard? Killing people, apparently. I thoroughly enjoyed (in a macabre sense, obviously) how hard it is to execute people properly. Who knew?

Verdict: A truly amazing look into the man of someone who was not famous but left a lot of his life written. This is a history book and may not be for general audiences, but history lovers will find it fantastic.

If You Liked This Try:

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The Faithful Executioner by Joel Harrington
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