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 Hauptmann von Köpenick

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Hauptmann von Köpenick

  • Birth 13 Feb 1849
  • Death 3 Mar 1922
  • Burial Treptow-Köpenick, Berlin, Germany
  • Memorial ID 10730195

Famous imposter. Born Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, he was a German shoemaker famous for posing as a Prussian military officer and was later known as "Der Hauptmann von Köpenick" (The Captain of Köpenick). His exploits were portrayed in plays, the most famous by Carl Zuckmayer in 1906, and in seven films from 1906 to 2001; in a 1996 stage revival Harald Juhnke played Köpenick to sell-out audiences in Berlin. Born in Tilsit, East Prussia, the son of a shoemaker, by 1863, at age 14, was sentenced to 14 days in jail for theft and by 1891 had spent a total of 25 years in prison for various thefts and forgery, the longest sentence was 15 years for theft. Released in early 1906, he lived briefly in Wismar until his residence permit was revoked and then joined his sister in Berlin working as a court shoemaker. Expelled as undesireable in August 1906, he ostensibly left for Hamburg, but remained in Berlin as an unregistered resident. By October, after assembling a Prussian captain's uniform from flea markets and curiousity shops, he was ready for his next escapade. Donning the uniform he went by train to Köpenick, near Berlin, took command of a couple of military patrols and proceeded to the Rathaus ordering them to cover all exits. He "arrested" the town's treasurer and mayor on suspicion of false bookkeeping and confiscated 4000 marks, sending them to General Moltke in Berlin for interrogation. He ordered the remaining guards to hold their assigned positions for 30 minutes as he headed for the train station where he boarded, changed to civilian clothing and exited. The German press speculated endlessly about the caper, the Prussian army investigated and the public was very amused by his daring. He was eventually arrested and sentenced to prison for forgery, impersonating an officer and wrongful imprisonment. However, strong public opinion prevailed and eventually German
Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him in August of 1908. Four days after his release, his wax figure appeared in Berlin's wax museum in Unter den Linden, and he decided to capitalize on his notoriety by signing pictures at the museum. He then toured in a play, signed more photographs as the Captain of Köpenick and also toured Eastern Europe, France, Canada and the USA. In 1909 he published a book about his caper and was later featured in Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London. He retired in 1910 to Luxemburg where he died impoverished due to post-WWI inflation.

Bio by: Fred Beisser


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Fred Beisser
  • Added: 6 Apr 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10730195
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Hauptmann von Köpenick (13 Feb 1849–3 Mar 1922), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10730195, citing Rathaus Köpenick, Treptow-Köpenick, Berlin, Germany ; Maintained by Find A Grave .