A hostage (old. Gisal "pledge") is a person who has been violently and illegally seized and is being held. By detaining, sometimes even threatening the hostage, the hostage takers want to enforce claims against third parties. The taking of hostages is prosecuted (in Germany § 239b StGB).
In the Statute for the International Military Tribunal of August 8, 1945, the killing of hostages was counted as a war crimes . In the trial against the generals in Southeastern Europe ("Hostages Trial") in 1947/48, the court judged the shootings of hostages as barbaric but permissible reprisals under international law , but clearly classified the executions of hostages carried out by German troops in the occupied territories because of their excessive features War crimes a. In the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War of 1949 hostage-taking was generally prohibited.
Historically, in order to guarantee a contract would be respected, people were taken hostage by the other party and had to live there. Often it was the sons of distinguished representatives of tributary states who were normally treated and raised with honor in the host country. Well-known examples are Theodoric the Great and Attila .
One speaks of being held hostage if the time of imprisonment lasts longer.
A behavior pattern that sometimes occurs when hostages are taken is the so-called Stockholm Syndrome . It denotes a hostage's sympathy with their hostage-taker. The causes of the phenomenon can be traced back to the immense psychological stress on the hostage, which is why any actions of the hostage-takers are interpreted by her as great benefits. The perception of the smallest actions that benefit the hostage, such as the provision of food, is enough for them to get the impression that the hostage-taker is taking care of them self-sacrificingly. Stockholm Syndrome often results in the hostages cooperating with the hostage taker. The phenomenon takes its name from the 131-hour hostage-taking at Norrmalmstorg at the end of August 1973. There, the four bank employees detained in a bank developed an intense affection for the hostage-takers and even stood up for them during the process.