In his memoir, Not So Wild a Dream, the famous CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid recalled watching the execution of six Nazi collaborators in the newly liberated city of Grenoble in 1944.
When the police van arrived and the six who were to die stepped out, a tremendous and awful cry arose from the crowd. The six young men walked firmly to the iron posts, and as their hands were tied behind the shafts they held their bare heads upright, one or two with closed eyes, the others staring over the line of the buildings and the crowd into the lowering clouds . . . There was the jarring, metallic noise of rifle bolts and then the sharp report. The six young men slid slowly to their knees, their heads falling to one side. An officer ran with frantic haste from one to the other, giving the coup de grāce with a revolver, and one of the victims was seen to work his mouth as though trying to say something to the executioner. As the last shot was fired, the terrible, savage cry rose again from the crowd. Mothers with babies rushed forward to look on the bodies at close range, and small boys ran from one to the other spitting upon the bodies. The crowd dispersed, men and women laughing and shouting at one another. Barbarous?
LRB 17 August 2006 | PDF Download