Willhelm Voight, the Captain of Köpenick, was originally a poor shoemaker. He turned to crime at an early age (14) and was later banned from Berlin because of his criminal past. On 16 October 1906 Voigt put on a Prussian army captain's uniform he pieced together from various shops, and walked onto a military base. There he stopped four grenadiers and a sergeant on their way back to barracks and told them to come with him. Indoctrinated to obey officers without question, they followed. He dismissed the commanding sergeant to report to his superiors and later commandeered 6 more soldiers from a shooting range. Then he took a train to Köpenick, east of Berlin, occupied the local City hall with his soldiers and told them to cover all exits. He told the local police to "care for law and order" and commandeered telephone and telegraph services "for state business."

He had the treasurer von Wiltberg and mayor Georg Langerhans arrested, under suspicion of crooked bookkeeping, and confiscated 4002 German marks and 37 pfennigs - with a receipt, signed with his former jail director's name. The Mayor asked for a warrant, and the Captain pointed to the bayonets of his soldiery and said, 'These are my authority'. Then he commandeered two carriages and told the grenadiers to take the arrested men to the Neue Wache in Berlin for interrogation. He told the remaining guards to stand in their places for half an hour and then left for the train station. He later changed into civilian clothes and disappeared.  


Gathering notoriety across europe after this escapade, he was able to capitalize on his fame after a four-year sentence for forgery, impersonating an officer, and wrongful imprisonment. Later he toured with a vaudeville company, but 6 years later faked his own death to generate publicity for his act.

A rich widow gave him a life pension, but post-World War I inflation left him in ruins. He died in Luxembourg in 1922. Voight was immortalized in wax, german folklore, literature, film, and in our hearts.

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