Often, impostors make a name for themselves who are able to deceive their environment over a longer period of time, for example when they work as doctors or other experts without attracting attention. They often enjoy a certain sympathy when they uncover grievances or unmask their victims' greed for money.
In 1851, an impostor was defined in the book The Dangerous Classes of Vienna as "a dangerous beggar who, with false certificates of accidents or the like, and by usually attaching noble names and titles to himself, excellently pillages the higher classes ."
Constitution as such is not a criminal offense, but it can constitute one of the following criminal offenses:
- Presumption of office (punishable according to StGB )
- Misuse of titles, job titles and badges (punishable under StGB)
- Fraud (punishable under StGB)
- Forgery of documents (punishable under StGB)
The prerequisites for fraud are present if the impostor harms his victim by faking false facts (here: about his identity). A forgery of a document essentially consists of someone signing with a false name. In the case of presumption of office, the impostor carries out actions that only public officials are authorized to carry out. An impostor is mainly accused of “illegally using academic degrees” if, for example, he wrongly calls himself a “ doctor ”.
If one does not see impostors as mere criminals (which they do not have to be in every case, for example not if they avoid the above-mentioned “traps”), their masquerade refers to the problem of identity and social roles .
To call someone else an imposter can be a defamation.
- The Köpenickiade , named after the captain von Köpenick , is a form of imposture, in which obedience is obtained through official presumption.
- In medieval history, there are several examples of false rulers . A German example is Tile Kolup , who in 1284 led many to believe that he was the long-dead Emperor Friedrich II. King Rudolf von Habsburg had him burned in Wetzlar on July 7, 1285 .
- Numerous legends and speculations surround the French adventurer, impostor and diplomat Count von Saint Germain , who died in Eckernförde in 1784 .
- From 1864 to 1870 the later writer Karl May gave himself up as an ophthalmologist Dr. Holy out, as a seminar teacher, as a member of the secret police and as the nephew of a plantation owner from Martinique .
- In 1906, Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, disguised in a captain's uniform , occupied the town hall of the city of Cöpenick , the story caused a sensation throughout Germany and is still popular today thanks to Carl Zuckmayer's play Der Hauptmann von Köpenick and subsequent film adaptations.
- Cassie Chadwick claimed to be the daughter of millionaire Andrew Carnegie and cheated on banks based on that.
- Victor Lustig "sold" the Eiffel Tower to a scrap dealer in 1925 and cheated on Al Capone .
- Karl Ignaz Hummel pretended to be a missing person named Oskar Daubmann in 1932, claiming he was held captive in Africa by the French for 16 years. He wanted to enable a return trip from Italy to Germany for which he had no money. Against his will he became a "hero" with this story of lies and gained international fame. He lectured and received numerous honors until he was exposed.
- The con man and check fraudster Frank W. Abagnale swindled around 2.5 million US dollars in 26 countries in the 1960s and 1970s. Today he advises various banks, airlines, hotels and other companies in his own company.
- As a trained postman, the impostor Gert Postel was able to hold a senior physician position in psychiatry and claims to have influenced legal policy with his case. Armin Nack (then presiding judge at the Federal Court of Justice) said at a legal lecture at the University of Passau on May 31, 2012, “I'll tell you one thing: Postel was the best expert. Better than the two trained psychiatrists! ”According to the newspaper Die Welt, Postel said “ Anyone who has mastered dialectics and psychiatric language can formulate any nonsense without limits and then put it in the guise of the academic ”.
- Christian E., who had only just barely made it through secondary school, forged certificates and was employed as a surgeon with two fake doctoral degrees at the University of Erlangen Hospital .
- Christian Gerhartsreiter alias "Clark Rockefeller", known from Walter Kirn's "Blood wants to talk"
- Robin van Helsum pretended to be an underage orphan Ray in September 2011 and claimed to have lived with his father for five years in the woods until he died in a fall in the wild and was buried by himself. In June 2012 it was announced that “Ray” was the 20-year-old Dutchman Robin van Helsum from Hengelo . He broke off his training and admitted that he had made up the previous information. His father only died in February 2012.
The motif of "imposture" in literature (selection)
- Brothers Grimm : " Puss in Boots " pretends to be the servant of an alleged count to the king. In fact, it is a miller's son who also becomes an impostor.
- Gottfried Keller : Clothes make the man . In: The people of Seldwyla , (collection of novels), Stuttgart 1874
- Thomas Mann : The Confessions of Felix Krull . The memoir first part (the second part was not written). Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 2004, ISBN 3-10-348129-2 (reprint of the Frankfurt / M. 1954 edition)
- Georges Manolescu (Prince Lahovari): A Prince of Thieves (1905) and Failed (1907), both published by Paul Langenscheidt , Berlin . First and second part of the memoirs of the Romanian impostor Manolescu, which served as inspiration for Thomas Mann's literary figure of Felix Krull and as a template for various film adaptations. Reprint: Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 1987, ISBN 978-3-596-28226-5 .
- Carl Zuckmayer : Captain von Köpenick . A German fairy tale in three acts . Fischer-Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt / M. 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-90039-8 (the model for the title character was Wilhelm Voigt ; see also: Köpenickiade ).
- Peter Kurth: Anastasia , the last daughter of the Tsar. The secret of Anna Anderson . Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1989, ISBN 3-404-11511-2 (American original: Anastasia: the Riddle of Anna Anderson . 1983)
- Natalie Zemon Davis : The True Story of the Return of Martin Guerre . Wagenbach-Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-8031-2498-0
- Andreas Izquierdo : The King of Albania . Rotbuch-Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-86789-015-1 (novel about the impostor and showman Otto Witte ).
- Moritz Wulf Lange : Cold Abyss. Dallinger's second case . Bloomsbury Berlin, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-8270-0868-8 . Like the film A Question of Trust , the book deals with a special form of imposture, the qualified exercise of a profession without official authorization.
The motif of "imposture" in the film (selection)
- Anastasia , USA 1956 (Director: Anatole Litvak )
- The captain of Koepenick . Home Entertainment, Munich 2006 (1 DVD, director: Helmut Käutner , with Heinz Rühmann , Martin Held , Wolfgang Neuss and others)
- The Confessions of Felix Krull . Home Entertainment, Munich 2004 (1 DVD, director: Kurt Hoffmann , with Horst Buchholz , Liselotte Pulver , Ingrid Andree and others)
- A passionate doctor , FRG 1959
- Daniel Vigne : The Return of Martin Guerre . 1982 1 DVD, u. a. with Gérard Depardieu , Nathalie Baye , Dominique Pinon
- The Messenger (1987) , Soviet feature film directed by Karen Shachnasarow
- Frank Oz, 1988, starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin as the villains, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels .
- The Talented Mr. Ripley (The Talented Mr. Ripley) by Anthony Minghella, USA 1999th
- Steven Spielberg : Catch Me If You Can , 2002 (the story of the impostor Frank William Abagnale Jr. ).
- The US television series Pretender (1996–2000) also deals with imposture, albeit in a non-criminal sense.
- Die Hochstapler by Alexander Adolph (script and direction), documentary, Germany 2006.
- Rainer Wolffhardt (director): The captain of Köpenick. Tragic comedy . Film 101, Munich 2008, (1 DVD; with Rudolf Platte , Alexander Kerst , Joachim Teege and others)
- A question of trust. With Silke Bodenbender, Hermann Beyer, Peter Kremer a. v. a. ZDF, March 8, 2010. The film deals - as well as the novel Cold abyss of Moritz Wulf Lange - with a special form of deception in the qualified profession without official authorization.
- Greed , by Dieter Wedel, inspired by the life of Jürgen Harksen and broadcast on ARD in January 2010.
- Who is Clark Rockefeller? (Directed by Mikael Salomon , shot in Canada in 2009, released in the USA in 2010) is based on the life of Christian Gerhartsreiter , who wasborn in Germany in 1961and who has lived in the United States since 1978, where hemarried in1994 as “Clark Rockefeller” (allegedly a Rockefeller ) and was convicted of murder in 2013. The marriage, which began in 1994, was divorced in 2007 because he refused to give the wife information about his identity.
- Stephan Porombka: Felix Krull's heirs. The history of imposture in the 20th century . Blumenkamp, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-9810685-4-2 (Original title: Felix Krulls Erben. On the history of high stacking in the 20th century . Berlin 2001.).
- Jürgen W. Schmidt: A con man in Erfurt: Martha Barth alias "Divorced Crown Princess of Greece" or "Princess Margarethe of Prussia" . In: Yearbook for Erfurt History . tape 5 . Erfurt 2010, p. 149-180 .
- Christian Saehrendt and Steen T. Kittl : “It's all bluff! How we become impostors without wanting to. Or maybe it? "Heyne, Munich 2011. Author interviews:  and 
- Gottfried Keller : Clothes make the man
- Adolf Storfer, Words and Their Fates, Berlin 1935, p. 178.
- Josef Schnelle: The Immortal . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung from 22./23. June 2019, p. 38
- Lothar Schröder: Died 100 years ago: The Metamorphosis of Karl May . In: RP ONLINE .
- Armin Nack. Der Spiegel 24/2013 from June 10, 2013, accessed on January 15, 2016.
- Die Welt (January 20, 1999): The doctor games of the impostor Postel .
- Reinhard Platzek: The psychiatric treatment according to Kaufmann - is it really medical torture? A reflection on the modern perception of electrosuggestive therapy. In: Medical historical messages. Journal for the history of science and specialist prose research. Volume 34, 2015 (2016), pp. 169–193, here: p. 170.
- Eckart Roloff and Karin Henke-Wendt: Gert Postel: The wrong Dr. Dr. shows what nerves are. In: Roloff and Henke-Wendt: Damaged instead of healed. Major German medical and pharmaceutical scandals. S. Hirzel, Stuttgart 2018, pp. 109–122, ISBN 978-3-7776-2763-2
- Conjurer in white. Christian E. excelled as a doctor at the Erlangen University Hospital . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . October 19, 2009, ISSN 0174-4917 , p. 46 .
- The clerk at the scalpel . In: sueddeutsche.de . 2010, ISSN 0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de ).
- Moritz W. Lange: Kalter Abgrund, Berlin 2010, afterword p. 285.
- Süddeutsche Zeitung March 8, 2010, p. 15.