dollars

wilhelm-voigtwilhelm-voigts-menHave you ever been an accomplice to a robbery? Would you ever? No…are you sure? I’m sure that’s what a squad of German soldiers in 1906 thought too, but they were wrong. In fact, I’m sure that those soldiers never dreamed that it could happen to them.

On this day, October 17, 1906, German shoemaker, Wilhelm Voigt, aged 57, had a plan. Voigt dressed up as a German Army officer, walked up to a squad of German soldiers in Tegel, Germany and told them to follow him. Voigt, who had a long criminal history, exploited the soldiers blind obedience to authority, and got them to assist him in his outlandish robbery. Tegel is a suburb of Berlin, but Voigt took the men 20 miles to the town of Köpenick.

After lunch, he put the men in position and stormed into the mayor’s office. Declaring that the mayor was under arrest, Voigt commanded the troops to take him into custody. He then demanded to see the cash box wilhelm-voigt-statuewilhelm-voigt-uniformand confiscated the 4,000 marks inside. The mayor was put in a car, and Voigt ordered that he be delivered to the police in Berlin. On the way to Berlin, Voigt managed to disappear with the money. Still, it took more than a few hours at the police station before everyone realized that it was all a hoax. While 4,000 marks might not seem like very much, it would total about $62,000 in US currency today, so it wasn’t just a petty theft.

The caper was a huge embarrassment to the German Army, but the Kaiser thought the story was quite funny. The Army put together a massive manhunt, and found Voigt in Berlin a few days later. He was given a 4 year sentence for the theft, but the Kaiser pulled some strings and reduced the sentence to two years. Somehow, Voigt wound up being a folk hero for the rest of his life. He started wearing his uniform and posing for pictures for years. He was known as the Captain of Köpenick. I don’t suppose that the men and women in our Army today would think that they would be fooled in such a fashion, but seriously, if someone wearing a proper captain’s uniform said to follow him, I have to wonder just how many of today’s soldiers would dare to disobey that order.

CorrieWhen kids are small, they are happy with a penny or a nickel, because they don’t know that these coins are not really worth very much in today’s world. All they know is that with that penny or nickel, they can go to a gumball machine and buy a piece of gum, and after all, isn’t that sort of thing the extent of their buying world at that early age.

Like all kids their age, Corrie and Amy loved getting money, in the form of coins, for their piggy banks and to put in the gumball machines. They learned quickly that those little pieces of metal were of great value, and they asked for them often. Sometimes they even found money on the ground, as we all have, and then you really got to see the excitement in their eyes, and hear it in their voices. It’s funny that as time goes by, we find ourselves leaving coins on the ground where we see them, because we now understand that they are not really very valuable. My girls were living in that special time, when coins still had value.

That childlike valuation of money was never made more clear to me that it was one day when my girls and I were at home, and they were about 3 and 2 years of age. The girls were playing with their toys in the living room, as I was cleaning the house. I had been back in the bedrooms. I brought out some trash to throw in the trash can under the sink in the kitchen. As I went to throw the trash away, something caught my eye in the trash can. I really have no idea why I even glanced into the trash can that day. It was not something I would normally have done. Nevertheless, I did glance down and then looked again…more carefully. Inside the trash can, I saw one hundred dollars, in twenty dollar bills. I was totally shocked.

I turned to see the girls with some coins in their hands. They had gone into my purse and taken out the money they thought was valuable, and then decided to help their mommy When Amy got madclean out her purse, by throwing away the useless paper that was in the wallet. In doing so, they had thrown away the hundred dollars that was in my wallet. It would have been lost, had it not been for the glance into the trash can, that I uncharacteristically made. I can’t say for sure if it was both of my girls who got the idea to get the money, or just Corrie, who the would have shared her take with her sister. I just know that I was thankful that I had looked into the trash can, and indeed, I looked as I threw things away for a number of years after that too, because I knew then, full well that when it came to the value of money, my little girls and I clearly had different ideas.

 

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