Captain von Koepenick

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The captain's monument in front of the Köpenick town hall

Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt (* 13. February 1849 in Tilsit ; † 3. January 1922 in Luxembourg ) was from East Prussia originating shoemaker . He became known as an impostor under the name of Hauptmann von Köpenick due to his spectacular occupation of the town hall of the city of Cöpenick near Berlin , which he entered on October 16, 1906 disguised as a captain with a group of gullible soldiers , arrested the mayor and stole the city treasury.

This event, which met with great public interest and when the Köpenickiade literally entered the German language, was often artistically processed. Carl Zuckmayer's play Der Hauptmann von Köpenick is particularly well-known .

The historical Wilhelm Voigt

Career and history

Wilhelm Voigt as a child
Extra sheet from the evening of October 16, 1906 with a representation of the events (the copy can be read on the picture page)

Wilhelm Voigt was born on February 13, 1849, the son of a shoemaker in Tilsit . At the age of 14 he was sentenced to 14 days in prison for theft . His years of traveling as a shoemaker's journeyman took him through large parts of Pomerania and to Brandenburg . Between 1864 and 1891 he was convicted four times of theft and twice for forgery and spent many years in prison. The last time he tried in 1890 with a crowbar to rob the court treasury in Wongrowitz in what was then the Prussian province of Posen , he received a 15-year prison sentence . After his release early 1906 Voigt moved to Wismar , where it the institution clerics had given a journeyman point when Hofschuhmachermeister Hilbrecht where he led well. Because of his criminal record but he received a police a few months residence ban for the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin .

He then moved to Rixdorf near Berlin, where he lived with his older sister Bertha and her husband, the bookbinder Menz, and found work in a shoe factory. On August 24, 1906, Wilhelm Voigt was also banned from staying in the greater Berlin area, which he did not adhere to. Instead, he stayed as a sleeper in an unannounced accommodation in Berlin-Friedrichshain near the Silesian train station . He initially kept his job, but because of his illegal status he had little prospect of permanent employment. At the end of September he told his employer and his partner Riemer, a 50-year-old factory worker who lived in his sister's house next door, about an alleged inheritance in Odessa , which he would have to travel for some time to claim. The last time he appeared at the factory was on October 6th.

The Köpenickiade

For his coup, Voigt had put together the uniform of a captain of the Prussian 1st Guard Regiment on foot from parts purchased from various dealers . In this disguise he stopped a troop of guard soldiers (so-called " cockchafer ") on the street at noon on October 16, 1906 near the Plötzensee military bathing establishment in west Berlin at the time of the changing of the guard , and left a second troop of detached guard soldiers from the shooting range of the 4th Guard -Regiments and placed ten or eleven men under his command, referring to a nonexistent cabinet order “on the highest orders”.

He drove with them on the Berlin tram to Koepenick , since, as he explained to the soldiers, it was not possible for him to "commandeer vehicles". During a stop in Rummelsburg , he served the men with beer. Voigt himself approved a cognac for 25 pfennigs , according to Private Klapdohr . After arriving in Koepenick, he gave each soldier a mark and let them have lunch at the train station. He then told them that he would " arrest the mayor and perhaps other gentlemen."

They then marched to the town hall of the then still independent city. Voigt and his troops occupied the building, had all exits cordoned off and forbade the officials and visitors to the building “any traffic in the corridors”. He then arrested Upper City Secretary Rosenkranz and Mayor Georg Langerhans "in the name of His Majesty" , had them arrested and guarded in their offices. He gave the gendarmerie officials present in the town hall the order to cordon off the area and to ensure “peace and order”, although he even had a gendarme assigned to him “for better orientation”. He gave the chief of the local police station leave, whereupon he left his office in the town hall and went home to take a bath.

He instructed the treasurer from Wiltburg to close the accounts and told him that he would have to confiscate the holdings of the city treasury. After the money, which had to be withdrawn and fetched in parts from the local post office, had been counted, he had bags brought to him, into which he filled it with the help of the person who held the bags and then sealed them. The “seized” cash balance amounted to 3557.45 marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's currency: around 22,000 euros), with 1.67 marks missing from the target balance of the cash book. Voigt signed a receipt requested by the renter with the last name of his last prison director (“von Malzahn”) and the addition “Hi1.GR” (captain in the 1st Guard Regiment).

Finally, the fake captain had Langerhans and von Wiltburg brought to the Neue Wache in Berlin in rented cabs under military guard , after having previously taken their word of honor not to attempt any escape. According to press reports, he had previously succeeded in blocking the Köpenick post office for calls to Berlin for an hour. Only after the prisoners had been removed were some city councilors able to notify the district office by telegram.

Historic safe in the town hall of Köpenick

After the end of his action, Captain von Köpenick gave his troops the order to keep the town hall occupied for another half an hour. He himself made his way back to the station under the eyes of a curious crowd. In the station restaurant, according to newspaper reports, he had “a glass of light served, which he emptied in one go” and disappeared on the next train in the direction of Berlin. Shortly afterwards he procured civilian clothes from a men's outfitter and left most of his uniform on the Tempelhofer Feld , where it was found by passers-by. He was arrested at breakfast ten days later after a former cellmate, who knew about Voigt's plans, tip the police in anticipation of the high reward. Sentenced to four years in prison by Regional Court II in Berlin "for unauthorized wearing of a uniform, offenses against public order , deprivation of liberty , fraud and serious forgery of documents ", he was pardoned by Kaiser Wilhelm II and on August 16, 1908, he was prematurely released from Tegel prison dismiss.

Personal description from the penal file

There are contradicting statements about the motive of the attack. While Voigt himself always claimed in court, in his autobiography and in his later appearances that he only wanted to keep the money and actually steal a foreign passport, his biographer Winfried Löschburg suspects that Voigt was actually two million marks (today: around 12 Million euros), of which he had heard that they were in the safe in the Köpenick town hall.

Passports were not issued in the town hall, but in the district office of the Teltow district in Berlin. Given his careful research before the crime, he should have known this. The fact that Voigt did nothing during the occupation of the town hall that would point to a search for passports, while “his entire systematic behavior towards the cashiers” (cf. the judgment of December 1, 1906) clearly shows a deliberately planned procedure, speaks in favor of an enrichment intention wearing. In fact, he had already planned the way he would proceed during his last stay in prison and reported it to his cellmate Kallenberg, while his illegal residence status, which he said he intended to end with a forged passport, only arose shortly before the crime. Correspondingly, the (altogether “remarkably benevolent”) royal district court also considered Voigt's claim that he originally only wanted a passport form to be “entirely untrustworthy”.

As a mitigating circumstance, however, the court accepted that “after having served his last sentence, he tried seriously and - as far as it was up to him - successfully to earn his living honestly, and was well on his way to becoming a useful member of the civil society To become society, but that this endeavor was thwarted through no fault of his own and he was pushed back on the path of crime. ”In this respect, the court also recognized that Voigt's act was decisively caused by his hopeless situation as a criminal, according to the rules of the time the police supervision could not hope for a secure residence status.

Contemporary response

All of Germany laughed at the stroke of genius. The Kaiser immediately requested a telegraphic report on the affair . While reading it, he is also said to have laughed and said: “You can see what discipline means. No people on earth imitate us! ”However, this saying of the emperor is not guaranteed. On the other hand, the note in a correspondent's report in the Daily Mail that Wilhelm II described the Köpenick perpetrator in a comment on the dossier as a “brilliant fellow” is viewed as historically secure .

In the introduction to his report from the morning of October 17, 1906, the editor of the Vossische Zeitung with a wink called the perpetrator a "robber captain" and recognized the suitability of the event on the stage, which he compared with daring romantic stories of robbers:

"An unheard-of crook, which is strongly reminiscent of the Russian bank robberies and at the same time looks like a funny operetta material, got the city of Köpenick excited yesterday afternoon."

- Vossische Zeitung
Satirical depiction on a contemporary postcard

The great echo in the press and in the cultural media and a large number of funny postcards, photos and satirical poems made the episode known throughout Germany and beyond the borders of the empire also abroad and led to the reputation of Captain von Köpenick as " Eulenspiegel ", which continues to this day of the Wilhelmine military state ”, as the Luxembourg historian Marc Jeck calls it (see literature ). Journalists from all over the world traveled to the trial of Voigt . During his detention, the authorities were inundated with questions, greetings, autograph requests and requests to pardon the perpetrator from home and abroad. Voigt himself was offered large sums of money for an exclusive marketing of his story during his time in the Tegel prison. From his early release he finally became an object of the entertainment industry .

In addition to amusement and malicious glee , thoughtfulness was noticeable in public immediately after the event. Could it really be that an officer without any legitimation other than his uniform was suspending civil authority? Many saw this incident as a symptom of the dubious role of the military in the German Empire .

The Berliner Morgenpost stated the day after the attack:

"That a whole community with all its public functions, yes, that a division of soldiers itself was duped by a single person in such an overwhelmingly comical and yet completely successful way, that is what a military garb has done in our country of unlimited uniform reverence which an old, crooked-legged individual had hung himself poorly. "

The commentator for the left-liberal Berliner Volks-Zeitung summed up the political symbolic content of the Köpenick crook on the same day as follows:

“As unspeakably funny, as indescribably ridiculous as this story is, it has such a shamefully serious side. The Köpenick crook is the most brilliant victory that the militaristic idea has ever achieved in its extreme culmination. Yesterday's interlude teaches in no uncertain terms: Dress up in a uniform in Prussia Germany and you are all powerful. […] Indeed: The hero of Köpenick, he really captured the zeitgeist. It is at the height of the most intelligent appreciation of modern power factors. The man is a real politician of the very first order. […] The victory of military cadaver obedience over common sense, over the state order, over the personality of the individual, that is what revealed itself in a grotesquely horrific way yesterday in the Köpenick comedy. "

The columnist Paul Block admonished his readership in the evening edition of the Berliner Tageblatt from October 17, 1906:

“We notice that our predilection for military pomp and style, which is in the blood of every Prussian, has received too much nourishment in recent years. Therefore we have to keep our respect silent from now on. "

The overly 'respectful' behavior of the soldiers was also criticized in the press: They had the instructions of an improperly uniformed “captain who was conspicuously not wearing a helmet but a cap” (as the Vossische Zeitung reported in the above-quoted message) who, moreover, the upper cockade was missing (as witnessed), could not simply obey, it was said in many places. Voigt later wrote in his autobiography :

“What is all the talk that is used to criticize my approach, even my uniform ?! [...] For example, I wouldn't have worn a helmet! - The helmet was quietly on the table in my apartment. But I did not consider it necessary to wear a helmet on my head for 17 hours for an official act that I could and would do more comfortably in my cap. "

- Wilhelm Voigt

The incident caused quite a stir abroad as well and was largely interpreted as a comical manifestation of Prussian-German militarism and the dominant role of the German military in the state and society.

"For years the Kaiser has been instilling into his people reverence for the omnipotence of militarism, of which the holiest symbol is the German uniform."

"For years the emperor has instilled awe in his people for the omnipotence of militarism, the most sacred symbol of which is the German uniform."

“With his bold act the false captain made the German spirit of submission ridiculous all over the world,” writes the Berlin non-fiction author Wilhelm Ruprecht Frieling in this context. Nevertheless, nothing changed in these conditions in Germany until the November Revolution of 1918. The politically questionable special position of the military as an “internal power instrument to maintain the system” and the “abuse of the military as a domestic political instrument of war”, which Stig Förster describes as the essence of “conservative militarism”, were instead continued to be active by the Kaiser and the political forces gathered behind him promoted. The conservative MP Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau demanded in a sensational Reichstag speech on January 29, 1910, alluding to the incident in Köpenick several years ago:

"The King of Prussia and the German Kaiser must at any moment be able to say to a lieutenant: Take ten men and close the Reichstag!"

- Stenographic reports from the Reichstag

In this context, the Köpenick incident can be categorized as a comedic forerunner of the Zabern affair , which at the turn of the year 1913/1914 (a few months before the outbreak of the First World War ) once again led to fierce discussions all over Germany and across all social classes about the assumption of competence of military agencies to the civil administration. The outbreak of war and the political takeover of power by the military in the state during the course of the war finally led to the upheavals of 1918 , which necessitated a redefinition of the role of the military in Germany and made the situation in the German Empire seem a distant past. Against this background, interest in the story of Captain von Köpenick reawakened at the end of the 1920s.

Government agencies reacted to the incident by instructing officers not to rely solely on the uniform but to request "appropriate evidence" of supervisor status.

After release from prison

Voigt leaves the Tegel prison

The " Köpenickiade " made Voigt world famous. He was pardoned by the emperor and released on August 16, 1908, on the same day he immortalized his voice in the form of a gramophone recording , for which he received 200  marks . In this recording he said:

“The longing grew in me to walk among the outdoors as a suitor. I have now become free, but I wish [...] and please God keep me from becoming outlawed again. "

- Wilhelm Voigt
Police photo from the penal file

In the following days, his appearance in Rixdorf caused tumultuous crowds, which even made it necessary for the police to intervene. 17 people were arrested within two days for disturbing the peace and similar violations . Four days later he presented in Berlin on the occasion of the unveiling of his wax figure in the wax museum Castans panopticon Unter den Linden in turn the public, autographed photos and held speeches, but this was immediately forbidden.

Later he traveled all over Germany and appeared in pubs and at fairs. In halls or circus tents he acted as Captain von Koepenick and sold autograph cards with pictures of him in uniform or in civilian clothes. Individual members of the "troop" he had commanded at the time also took part in the performances or had themselves photographed with him. In 1909 his autobiography was published in a Leipzig publishing house : How I became a captain of Köpenick. My picture of life / By Wilhelm Voigt, called Captain von Köpenick .

Since he was under police supervision as a reportable criminal, Voigt, who “mostly received noticeable sympathy from the lower classes of the population” (as a report by a Saarland mayor says), repeatedly suffered harassment and even arrests by the local authorities who disliked the mockery of the state and the military that was latently associated with his appearance. Therefore he was looking for a new home and preferred to perform in other European countries. Allegedly, he even managed to enter the USA in March 1910 , where he is said to have celebrated great success with his tour (which is not historically certain; it is only certain that the American circus Barnum and Bailey financed a tour through several European cities ).

The grave at the Liebfrauenfriedhof
( georeferencing :
49 ° 36 ′ 55.61 ″  N , 6 ° 7 ′ 7.99 ″  E )

On May 1, 1910, he received a Luxembourg ID and moved to Luxembourg, where - after the frequency of his public appearances had decreased - he mainly worked as a waiter and shoemaker. Thanks to his popularity he achieved a certain level of prosperity and was one of the first owners of an automobile in the Grand Duchy, in which he occasionally went on excursions with his landlady and her children. In 1912 he bought the house on Neippergstrasse (Rue du Fort Neipperg) No. 5, where he lived until his death.

Voigt came into contact with the Prussian military once again during the First World War. In Luxembourg, which was occupied by German troops, he was briefly taken into custody and interrogated. The lieutenant involved in the process noted in his diary: "It remains a mystery to me how this poor man was once able to shake all of Prussia."

Death and burial in Luxembourg

In the last years of his life, Wilhelm Voigt no longer appeared in public. He died on January 3, 1922 at the age of 72, severely affected by a lung disease and completely impoverished as a result of war and inflation, in Luxembourg ( Limpertsberg district ) and was buried in the local Liebfrauenfriedhof ( French : Cimetière Notre-Dame). It is located in the Allée des Résistants et des Déportés and can be reached by tram ( Faïencerie stop ). The funeral procession allegedly met a group of French soldiers stationed in Luxembourg. When the squad leader asked who the dead man was, the mourners answered “Le Capitaine de Coepenick”. Thereupon the troop leader, assuming that a real captain ( French: Capitaine ) was being buried here, instructed his people to allow the funeral procession to pass with a military tribute to the deceased officer.

The Sarrasani Circus bought Wilhelm Voigt's grave in 1961 for 15 years and donated a tombstone at the same time. This showed the biting caricature of the head of an obviously German soldier with a spiked hat , who opens his mouth to give orders , framed by the inscription “Der Hauptmann von Köpenick”. The grave has been tended by the city since 1975 and, at the instigation of some members of the European Parliament , the tombstone was also renewed. It now shows a spiked hat and the inscription "HAUPTMANN VON KOEPENICK". Underneath it is written “Wilhelm Voigt 1850–1922” in smaller letters, whereby the year of birth is incorrectly stated. In 1999, the City of Luxembourg rejected the request to transfer the remains to Berlin. The house in which he lived until his death is no longer there.

Memorial sites and illustrative material

Berlin memorial plaque for Wilhelm Voigt
A Voigt wax figure is brought to the “Old Berlin” exhibition, May 1930
Graffito by Captain von Köpenick on the wall of Alt-Köpenick 38

A memorial was erected in front of the town hall in Köpenick in 1996. The figure was designed by the Armenian Spartak Babajan and cast in bronze by the Seiler art foundry. A Berlin memorial plaque for Voigt was also attached to the town hall . Inside the building there is a permanent exhibition of the Heimatmuseum Köpenick with numerous exhibits about the “Captain of Köpenick”. There is an original film document with Wilhelm Voigt in the Berlin film archive .

In Wismar , a plaque was attached to the house at Lübschen Strasse 11, where Wilhelm Voigt lived and worked with the court shoemaker H. Hilbrecht. A figure at Madame Tussauds was also erected in his honor.

Literary echo

Theater, literature and film

Immediately after the crime, even before the impostor was caught, the episode was prepared for the Berlin theater audience in the form of satirical performances. Vorwärts reported on such a cabaret sketch on October 19, 1906: “The stage has already taken over history.” In the daily revue in the Metropol-Theater “a number of soldiers marched up yesterday who limited themselves to all orders of a captain's nod ”. In the Passage-Theater (in the Berliner Passage at the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Behrenstrasse ) a Schwank entitled Sherlock Holmes in Köpenick was rehearsed and in the German-American Theater (in the Köpenicker Strasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg ) an interlude with the title Der Hauptmann von Köpenick in the farce built into the Wild West .

A first play (Der Hauptmann von Köpenick. A comedy in four acts) , the performance of which cannot be proven, was written in Berlin in 1906 by the playwright Hans von Lavarenz . In Mainz , Trieste (November 1906) and Innsbruck (January 1907) the world premieres of three apparently comical and comical pieces are documented, all of which were entitled Der Hauptmann von Cöpenick . In Leipzig a similar play (Der Hauptmann von Köpenick) came to the theater in 1912.

In 1908 (after Voigt's dismissal) a Kiel vaudeville brought a funny program called Der Hauptmann von Köpenick onto the stage. Wilhelm Voigt himself wrote in a letter to his friend Kallenberg that he had “had a great desire and interest” to see the performance. Although he traveled to Kiel specifically for this purpose, the authorities forbade him to enter the auditorium because there was fear of a crowd.

The colossal public interest is also illustrated by the fact that the first film versions of the Köpenickiade existed as early as 1906: Less than three months had passed, there were already three short strips (shot by Heinrich Bolten-Baeckers , Carl Sonnemann and an unknown Schaub) who reenacted the Köpenick incident in a documentary manner and brought the sensational topic to cinemas all over Germany.

Also in 1906, the well-known crime writer Hans Hyan brought out an illustrated volume of poetry entitled The Captain von Köpenick, a gruesomely beautiful story of the limited understanding of subjects . Hyan also wrote the foreword for the memoirs that Wilhelm Voigt published in 1909 after his early release from prison.

The first longer feature film was made by the screenwriter and director Siegfried Dessauer , who filmed the bizarre episode of the false captain in 1926 under the title Der Hauptmann von Köpenick with Hermann Picha in the title role. In contrast to what is often read in catalogs, this film, most of the copies of which were destroyed in the Third Reich , is of course not based on Zuckmayer's well-known drama, which was made a few years later.

Also before Zuckmayer, the Rhenish homeland poet and editor Wilhelm Schäfer took up the topic and in 1930 published an only moderately successful novel about the life of the cobbler Wilhelm Voigt with the title Der Hauptmann von Köpenick . Schäfer devotes only a few chapters to the Köpenickiade itself, while beforehand he broadly describes Voigt's sad vagrant existence and tries to give a plausible psychological justification for the revenge of the humiliated cobbler.

In the same year Carl Zuckmayer , who had been made aware of the material by his friend Fritz Kortner and who, according to his own testimony, had deliberately not read Schäfer's book, wrote a three-act tragic comedy entitled Der Hauptmann von Köpenick. A German fairy tale in three acts . The play was premiered on March 5, 1931 at the Deutsches Theater Berlin , directed by Heinz Hilpert, with Werner Krauss in the title role. In the same year, directed by Richard Oswald, the first film adaptation for the cinema followed, in which Max Adalbert , who has now also played the role on stage, took on the title role.

Albert Bassermann played the role in a remake of Oswald's film made in 1941 in American exile for the first time in English . Helmut Käutner , later the scriptwriter and initiator of the Rühmann film , recorded a very successful radio play based on the drama in 1945 . Further film adaptations followed, all based on Zuckmayer's play, some with well-known actors such as Heinz Rühmann (1956) and Harald Juhnke (1997). An English editor of Zuckmayer's drama was formed in 1971 under the title The Captain of Koepenick (translator was the English playwright John Mortimer ) and was in the same year with the famous Shakespeare interpreters Paul Scofield in the title role in London premiered.

Another dramatic implementation of the subject in the form of the comedy by Paul Braunshoff , also published in 1932 under the title Der Hauptmann von Köpenick , remained largely unknown.

The captain von Köpenick also appears as a secondary character in Otto Emersleben's novel In den Schründen der Arktik (2003) , in which Karl May and Wilhelm Voigt meet and the idea of ​​the Köpenickiade emanates from May. The scene gets its special charm from the fact that May himself (as a con man) repeatedly faked officials in his youth.

For the first time on the 100th anniversary of the Köpenickiade in 2006 and since then every year in October, the Zuckmayer play is staged in the ballroom of the town hall in Köpenick by the “Stadttheater Cöpenick”.

Also for the anniversary year 2006, under the title Das Schlitzohr von Köpenick - Schuster, Hauptmann, Vagabund, a new play about Wilhelm Voigt was created, which the authors Felix Huby and Hans Münch wrote for the people's actor Jürgen Hilbrecht , a captain actor who already has this role embodied for years at the historical crime scene in Berlin-Köpenick and brings the history of Voigt closer to tourists and those interested in history with a lot of personal commitment. The new piece is particularly interesting because it is preceded by extensive historical research and a series of new discoveries and so far little or no known details and episodes from the “real” life of the main character flow into its plot. In this respect, the piece is suitable to complement the image of Wilhelm Voigt in the public , which is today almost exclusively characterized by Zuckmayer's interpretation and the films based on it, and to link it more closely to historical events.

Also at the historical crime scene since May 2000, every Wednesday and Saturday at 11 a.m. there has been a half-hour street theater in front of the Köpenick town hall. In this small Köpenickiade, originally initiated in 2000 by the Treptow-Köpenick Tourist Association and since 2005 by the Köpenicker HauptmannGarde e. V. , the coup of October 16, 1906 is recreated in a humorously modified Zuckmayer version of Captain von Köpenick.

Since 2019 there has been an escape room on Schlossplatz in Köpenick , in which the story of Captain von Köpenick can be re-enacted.

Plot from Zuckmayer's drama

The captain's uniform in the exhibition room of the town hall in Köpenick

In the second and third act, Zuckmayer's piece deals with the time around the spectacular attack and in the first act a fictional history that takes place ten years earlier. In addition to minor changes (for example, Voigt's place of birth is relocated near the Wuhlheide , so that Voigt speaks Berlin dialect ), the main difference between the piece and reality is probably the stylization of Voigt as a 'noble robber'. Zuckmayer, for example, adopts Voigt's (hardly credible) self-portrayal, according to which the motive for his attack was solely the acquisition of a passport that he urgently needed in order to be able to start a normal life again. Since the office in Köpenick did not have a passport department, however, the culprit - the city treasury almost untouched - in Zuckmayer's play at the end voluntarily surrenders to the police and has a passport promised for the time after his release from prison.

Because Voigt, unlike in reality, buys the uniform completely from a dealer - a rather banal change in itself - the 'blue skirt' gets its own story. By introducing the previous owners one after the other, Zuckmayer took the opportunity to review the history of some minor characters (the mayor of Köpenick, for example) against the background of a critical, sometimes even caricature, description of the conditions in the imperial army and the militaristic society of the former Time to tell, with the omnipresence of the military being staged again and again.

Individual episodes deal with the effects of the officer's code of honor on the personal life and with the social position of the reserve officer or address the unconditional piety of a 'down-to-earth' Berlin soldier and worker, personified in the form of Voigt's brother-in-law, a staid NCO Army and State. Everyday phenomena such as the stereotypical question when looking for a job “Where do you have everybody?” And the automatic 'standing at attention' in front of uniforms, which everyone internalized, are shown as well as grotesque military role-plays, probably based on the author's imagination, which the prison director performs on his convicts, including the Voigt, who is very prominent here, can be performed to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Sedan .

Zuckmayer (who was an avowed opponent of the emerging National Socialism at the time the play was written and whose mother came from an assimilated Jewish family) also takes up anti-Semitic clichés, as they were already widespread in the imperial era, in a caricaturing manner, for example in the figure of enterprising Jewish shopkeeper Krakauer or in the depiction of the Jewish uniform tailor Wormser and his son, to whom he ascribes certain degrees of "Jewish racial characteristics" in the stage directions and thus also addresses the failure of Jewish assimilation in the empire.

Film adaptations

The most important films at a glance:

Radio plays

All of the radio plays listed here were based on the play by Carl Zuckmayer.


  • Walter Bahn: Wilhelm Voigt, the captain of Köpenick. In: ders .: My clients (= Big City Documents , Volume 42). Hermann Seemann Nachhaben, Berlin undated [1908], pp. 67–115 ( digitized version of the Central and State Library Berlin , 2014).
  • Annette Deeken : The captain of Koepenick. In: Heinz-B. Heller , Matthias Steinle (Ed.): Film Genres - Comedy. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2005, pp. 280-285.
  • Wilhelm Ruprecht Frieling : The captain of Koepenick. The true story of Wilhelm Voigt. With the original judgment of the Berlin regional court. Internet book publisher, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-941286-69-6 .
  • Wilhelm Große: Explanations on Carl Zuckmayer: Der Hauptmann von Köpenick , text analysis and interpretation (vol. 150), C. Bange Verlag , Hollfeld 2012, ISBN 978-3-8044-1956-8 .
  • Wolfgang Heidelmeyer (ed.): The case of Köpenick. Files and contemporary documents on the history of a Prussian morality. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1968.
  • Robert von Hippel : The "Captain von Köpenick" and the residence restrictions of punished persons. In: Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung. Vol. 11 (1906), Vol. 11, pp. 1303/1304 (published online here ).
  • Marc Jeck: At the highest order. Not a German fairy tale. The true life. In: Die Zeit , No. 42, October 12, 2006, p. 104 (available online here ).
  • Paul Lindau : The captain of Köpenick . In: Paul Lindau: Excursions into the criminalistic . Munich, 1909, pp. 241-272.
  • Winfried Löschburg: Without glamor and glory - The story of the captain of Köpenick. Ullstein, 1998. ISBN 3-548-35768-7 .
  • Philipp Müller: Looking for the culprit. The public dramatization of crimes in the Berlin quay area , (Campus: Historische Studien; 40) Frankfurt am Main 2005.
  • Matthias Niedzwicki: The basic right to freedom of movement according to Art. 11 GG - At the same time a contribution to the 100th anniversary of the Köpenickiade of the Captain von Köpenick. In: Verwaltungsblätter für Baden-Württemberg (10/2006), Journal for Public Law and Public Administration, p. 384 ff.
  • Henning Rosenau : The captain von Köpenick a hangman? - Study on a judgment of the Royal District Court II in Berlin and a play by Carl Zuckmayer. In: ZIS 2010, p. 284 ff .; contains in the appendix the copy of the judgment of December 1, 1906 (available online here (PDF; 199 kB)).
  • Claus-Dieter Sprink (Red.): Subordinate - yes! But under wat under ?! From shoemaker Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt to “Captain von Köpenick” . Exhibition in the town hall of Köpenick, commemorative publication for the 90th anniversary of the Köpenickiade on October 16, 1996. Köpenick, 1996.
  • Wilhelm Voigt: How I became captain of Köpenick: my view of life. Various publishers 1909, 1931, 1986, 2006. ISBN 3-935843-66-6 (text also published online here ).
  • Carl Zuckmayer : The Captain von Köpenick: A German fairy tale in three acts. Fischer, ISBN 3-596-27002-2 .
  • Simplicissimus , No. 33 (special number), vol. 11 (1906/1907) of November 12, 1906, pp. 513-532.

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Voigt  - Collection of Images

References and comments

  1. The name of the city at that time was in the official spelling Cöpenick . Officially, this spelling was not changed until January 1, 1931 in Köpenick . In contemporary documents (including official documents such as the judgment of the Berlin Regional Court on the act of Wilhelm Voigt), books and press reports, however, the spelling with the initial K has already prevailed since the beginning of the 20th century . In this article, the name is reproduced as Köpenick in the following (except in quotations from sources that use the Cöpenick spelling ).
  2. The amount stated in the receipt of 4,000.70 marks (instead of 3,557.45 marks) is explained by the fact that the court ruling accidentally included the interest coupons from the Köpenick city bond for 443.25 marks that Voigt had not taken with him .
  3. The judgment is printed in the Zeitschrift für Internationale Strafrechtsdogmatik 2010, pp. 294–298, online here (PDF; 199 kB).
  4. Meint Rosenau (see literature ), p. 287
  5. Zuckmayer, who processes contemporary press reviews and news in his drama, lets his characters report on the emperor's saying (according to the author's memory, “credibly rumored ”). It is strongly reminiscent of Bismarck's proverbial sentence at the time: “Nobody imitates the Prussian lieutenant.” Zuckmayer uses this well-known Bismarckian bon mot (cf. Louis Reynaud: Histoire générale de l'influence française en Allemagne , 13th edition, Paris 1924. p . in 231) ironic "the: unfamiliar form and the uniform Schneider Worms in his mouth old Fritz , the categorical imperative , and our drill regulations ! that makes us not to" even Karl Liebknecht takes in his work militarism and anti-militarism with special emphasis on international Youth Movement (Leipzig, 1907) refers to this when he says: “As allegedly nobody - to speak to Bismarck - has copied the Prussian lieutenant, so nobody has in fact been able to completely copy the Prussian-German militarism since it has not only become a state within a state , but actually a state above the state […]. ”(Quoted from Volker R. Berghahn (Ed.): Militarismu s . Cologne, 1975. p. 91)
  6. With his reference to the “Russian bank robberies”, the editor is evidently alluding to the spectacular bank robberies by revolutionary groups for the purpose of foreign exchange, which have been reported more frequently in pre-revolutionary Russia since the unrest of 1905 . The bloodiest of them, the attack on the Bank of Tbilisi , in which 40 people died and in which Joseph Stalin was involved, did not take place until the following year (July 1907).
  7. Heinz Pürer, Johannes Raabe, Presse in Deutschland , UTB, 2007, ISBN 9783838583341 , p. 66
  8. 100 years "Hauptmann von Köpenick" (Part I) ( Memento of the original from February 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (October 9, 2006 at 11:37 a.m. by Wilhelm Ruprecht Frieling)  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Cf. Stig Förster: Military and Citizenship Participation. General conscription in the German Empire 1871–1914. In: Roland G. Foerster (ed.): The conscription. Origin, manifestations and politico-military effect. Munich, 1994. p. 58
  10. XII. Legislative period , 2nd session, vol. 259, p. 898 (D)
  11. Conduct of railway employees towards superiors who are not personally known . In: Eisenbahn-Directions Bezirk Mainz (Ed.): Official Gazette of the Royal Prussian and Grand Ducal Hessian Railway Directorate in Mainz of February 16, 1907, No. 8. Announcement No. 74, p. 77.
  12. 1508: Captain von Köpenick released from prison on
  13. Eva Pfister: Against uniform fetishism. In: Calendar sheet. March 5, 2011, accessed March 5, 2011 .
  14. Neue Zeit of May 20, 1966, p. 6
  15. ^ Liebfrauenfriedhof Luxemburg-Limpertsberg. Retrieved August 12, 2019 .
  16. Märkische Oderzeitung from 18./19. March 2006, p. 14
  17. Cöpenick City Theater
  18. Simone Jacobius: Müggelheimer has created a historic escape room. September 2019, accessed on September 21, 2019 .
  19. Film posters and basic data of the film from 1931 from the West German sound film archive ( Memento from December 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  20. Film posters and basic data of the film from 1956 from the West German sound film archive ( Memento from December 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )