Sometimes, you come across someone so bold and so outrageous in their actions, that you are left in complete shock. Now, I can’t say that I am the one in complete shock, but I suspect that a squad of German soldiers might have been, when on October 17, 1906, Wilhelm Voigt, a 57-year-old German shoemaker, decided to impersonate an army officer and lead an entire squad of soldiers to help him steal 4,000 marks. When calculated to American dollars and to 2023, that would be approximately $33,000. While Voigt was a shoemaker by trade, he also had a long criminal record as a thief. So, he carefully planned the robbery, knowing that the German soldiers had a long history of blind obedience.
Voigt got his hands on a captain’s uniform and hatched a plan to manipulate the German army into following his lead, thereby exploiting their blind obedience to authority and making them assist in his crazy robbery scheme. Voigt approached a troop of soldiers in Tegel, Germany. Just outside Berlin, he boldly ordered the unit to follow him 20 miles into the town of Kopenik. The group had lunch, and then Voigt put the men in position and stormed into the mayor’s office. They proceeded to arrest the mayor. He demanded to see the cash box and 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. Just like that, the mayor was under arrest…by an imposter.
And the misfit squad of soldiers proceeded to Berlin, Voigt managed to disappear with the money. No one noticed that he had gone, and it took more than a few hours at the police station before everyone realized that it was all a hoax. As for the Kaiser…well, he thought the story was funny, but They had been humiliated by the man who was obviously impersonating a captain. They launched a massive campaign to find Voigt. They wanted revenge for the fact that they were fooled. Voigt was caught in Berlin a few days later. Voigt was found guilty and was sentenced to four years for the robbery. Somehow, the Kaiser himself pulled some strings to get him out in less than two. While he was a convicted criminal after that, the people considered him a bit of a hero for the rest of his life. He even posed for pictures for years. His little ruse, while considered a crime by the Germans, made Voigt famous.