The term Scharfrichter (German for executioner, literally: "keen judge") refers specifically to a tradition of executioners in the German states. Using a sword of execution, they had the responsibility of actually executing prisoners; his assistant, the "Löwe" (lion), would carry out tasks such as forcibly conveying prisoners to the presence of a judge (while roaring, whence the name), "rubbish clearance", burying unwanted bodies, and carrying out brandings. The Scharfrichter was a well-known figure nicknamed the "Mate of Death" and instantly recognizable in their traditional black frock coat and silk top hat.
The word "Scharfrichter" is composed of the words "scharf" (sharp/edged), and "Richter" (judge), because he had to do justice (richten) with the sword.
- pg 132 of Dark Justice: a history of punishment and torture, Karen Farrington, 1996, ISBN 0-7651-9910-6