Captain of Köpenick

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Captain of Köpenick

Imagine you find the Iron Man suit to destroy the world, but its autopilot mode forces you to kill the villain. You became a superhero without any special abilities.

So, despite your best efforts, you ended up on the right side of history. This is exactly what happened to Wilhelm Voigt.

When you search his name on Google, it depicts him as a German military officer. In reality, he was not a government employee. He was perfect with 20+ years of prison record.

On October 16, 1906, the historic Captain of Kopenick event occurred.  

Wilhelm emerged from jail, stretched his arms, and entered a costume shop to purchase a military suit. He attempted to portray himself as an officer who received direct commands from “above” after donning the military uniform. He approached four grenadiers and a sergeant officer who were leading back to their barracks. He feasted lavishly before marching the German soldiers for 20 kilometers to the Mayor’s office in Kopenick. Now comes the exciting part: it wasn’t just these four soldiers that fell into his trap. After those four, he duped six additional soldiers into accompanying him to Kopenick.

Wilhelm just sat down on a train bound for the city of his upcoming treasure quest, which was located east of Berlin.

He didn’t want to finish the robbery by himself. So he decided to put his acting skills to work in a play and had the soldiers perform it for him.

With his highly influential confidence, he entered the Mayor’s office and gave everyone chills by declaring that the Officer needed to be imprisoned owing to corruption. He asked the officers to safeguard all exists while ordering some of them to bring him the Mayor’s cashbox containing 4000 marks and 37 pfennigs. To protect the soldiers from finding out instantly, he turned around and told the Mayor that he suspected “crooked bookkeeping” in his workplace.

He clutched his pen and then signed the receipt for accepting the money in the name of his prior jail director. He then informed the soldiers that he needed to leave because he needed to turn over the money to Berlin Police.

He called and stopped two wagons, instructing his grenadiers to get on board quickly and transport “criminals” back to Berlin for an additional investigation. He then instructed the remaining soldiers to take down every call that rang inside the post office for half an hour before departing for the train station.

How clever?

Then he came out, changed into regular clothes, caught the first train, and flew away with the money bag in his hand. After an hour, everyone was laughing and rushing about looking for the person who had made them such fools.

What made it so special? This incident exposed the truth about blind obedience to authority and how bureaucracy used to prioritize appearances over reality. It brings the system’s flaws to the public’s attention before an irreparable incident occurs in the country.

But it was more amusing than “daring” for the general audience. No one could believe that a person who had just been released from prison could fool soldiers who had spent their entire careers knowing and investigating criminals.

Following the incident, both the army and the German press began their investigations to identify and apprehend the true perpetrator.

………….Seated at a single table, all the Sherlock Holmes’s were scratching their heads……………

Wilhelm Voigt’s ideas were blown up in seconds on October 26, 1906, 10 days after the tragedy.

But even this time, it wasn’t his fault.

One of the cellmates, possibly a buddy of the Voigt, who was previously aware of the Voigt’s plans, bragged about it to the authorities in the hopes of receiving a reward. 

This is what brought him back to where he started. Wilhelm was again inside the prison on December 1st, having been jailed for 4 years this time.

Fortunately, he had the entire public on his side. On August 16, 1908, German Kaiser Wilhelm II commuted his sentence to two years, based on popular sentiment.

Some tales were circulating about how Wilhelm II was impressed by Voigt’s behavior and referred to him as an “amiable scoundrel” owing to the exposed weaknesses of his army. But since there is no evidence, we cannot be certain.

Even websites like reported on how Kaiser Wilhelm II “pulled a few strings” to get Voigt out of prison in half the time.

Regardless, the incident was published in the Illustrated London News, as well as covered by none-other-than famous writer G. K. Chesterton.

………………..Just to give you a sneak peek: G.K. Chesterton was the man behind the books like “The Man Who Was Thursday“, “Orthodoxy” and “What’s wrong with the world“……………………

Wilhelm became a celebrity overnight by committing an awful crime.

If you think he spent the remainder of his life isolated in a country home, pouring bear on a tall glass without ice, hiking mountain every Sunday, you’re mistaken.

He also cashed in on his fame.

Not only was a wax figure of him retained in the “Under den Linden” museum four days after his release, but he also went to the exhibition to sign autographs for the fans of that statue.

But, obviously, the universe wanted him to be “good” this time.

The officers prevented him from doing so.

But that didn’t stop him from performing in different theaters, taking pictures, and signing autographs to increase his fame. 

Carl Wickmayer, believe it or not, wrote a play based on his actions.

Voigt traveled to restaurants and amusement parks in Vienna, Dresden, and even Budapest to show off what he did. When he was worn out, he sat down on a table and began composing his new money-cashing asset.

He authored a book and had it published in Leipzig the following year under the title “How I Became the Captain of Kopenick”. It sold like a forest fire.

If it had been released in the internet era, Wilhelm could have had a website like Amazon put his book on a “features book” after the immersive sale.

After a while, he also attempted to travel to America, and when that failed, he attempted to travel via Canada. He went there and had a better time than he had before the catastrophe, buying a house and retiring from his “superhero enigma”. But if you think his final days were spent with money falling on his head, you’re mistaken. The post-World War I slump ruined him financially once more, and he couldn’t monetize his story this time. He died and was buried in Luxembourg’s “Cimetière Notre-Dame” in 1922.

Given his fame as the subject of more than six films in Germany, America, and other countries, it appears that his fame was greater than the superhero himself. It’s a big deal when you’re represented in a film by performers like Albert Bassermann, Emmett Kelly, Harald Juhnke, and Rudolf Platte.

But there is another side to him that no one knows about. For him, stealing was more of a habit than something he did once. If you do some investigation, you’ll find out how he was imprisoned for 14 days when he was only 14 years old when he stole something. He was expelled from school in 1863 as a result of his actions.

People seem to have also forgotten that he used to be a shoemaker before all of this and that he had previously served 27 years in prison.

People now sympathize with him on a variety of grounds. When he arrived in Berlin following his years-long prison sentence, he was categorized as “undesirable” and told to leave the city, putting him in a vulnerable position. People say it was an act of desperation that became folklore.

Now that we’ve told you about him, tell us about the next person you’d want to learn about.

 Also, to give you a sneak peek, we have been working on a really interesting project for quite some time. And it’s not something you want to miss. Stay tuned.