Famous German Imposters
Who are some famous imposters from Germany?
Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt
Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, son of a shoemaker, was born in 1849. He was already several times convicted before he started his biggest coup.
In October 1906, Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt dressed up as a Captain and occupied the town hall in Köpenick near Berlin. For his coup, he bought a uniform of a captain at a flew market and took some guard soldiers under his wing. After offering them food and drinks, he told them about his plan to arrest the mayor and other men. During the coup, Friedrich Wilhelm Voight instructed the treasurer of Wiltburg to close all accounts and told him to confiscate the city’s treasuries. After the end of his “robbery”, the Captain of Köpenick gave his troops the order to keep the town hall occupied for half an hour. He himself went back to the station – followed by the eyes of a curious crowd. Only ten days later, the police arrest him after getting a tip from one of Voigts previous prison inmates. For his crime, he served around two of initially four years in prison. The stroke of genius found much amusement in the German society and he became worldwide famous.
In 1922, German author Carl Zuckmayer published a book called “Der Hauptmann von Köpenick” ( = The Captain of Köpenick) about one of the most famous imposters from Germany.
Kaspar Hauser was born in 1812 and is worldwide known as the “mysterious foundling”. As a 16-year-old teenager, he was found bedraggled and mentally retarded in the German town Nuremberg. His identity remained unclear throughout his life. According to conspiracy theorists, Hauser is the hereditary prince of Baden, who became victim to an intrigue and was mysteriously set aside. This means that Stephanie of Baden would have been the mother of the unknown. Opponents of the princely theory, however, consider Kaspar Hauser to be an impostor.
He died in 1833 due to self-inflicted injuries he allegedly inflicted because of a dwindling public interest about his person.
The famous term Kaspar Hauser Complex marks the “absolute isolation” of the modern mass man, which makes him anti-social and culture-denying.
Gert Postel was born in 1958. The trained postman is often referred to as the “legend among all imposters”. He applied for positions as a medical officer, a doctor in psychiatric clinics and – without ever going to university – was working as a senior physician in psychiatry for two years. He got all his jobs through fake documents and prepared himself by attending lectures in psychology, reading books and trying to assimilate the typical “doctor’s language”. He himself did not even shy away from writing psychiatric reports for courts.
When he was doomed to hire an employee whose roots were in northern Germany and whose parents knew “Postel”, it soon became clear that he was a convicted impostor. He was blown up because he had lost a passport cover with false documents. After his renewed fraud had been uncovered, Postel went underground in July 1997 and was initially untraceable.
The famous impostor was convicted in 1999 to four years in prison due to fraud, forgery, deception, and misuse of academic titles. After his early release, he published the book Doktorspiele – Geständnisse eines Hochstaplers ( = Doctor Games – Confessions of an impostor).
Some people celebrate him because he tricked the system. By some, he is severely criticized and called a narcissist.
Baron Münchhausen was born in 1720 and is also famous under the name “lying baron”. Even as a young man, Münchhausen liked to tell other people crazy stories which – especially due to the way he described them – could have never happened. In 1785, a book with all his stories first got published in Great Britain and later on also in a German translation. They include a tale about him as a soldier and adventurer in which he fights against the Ottoman Empire and also meets the Sultan in Constantinople.
Today, around 100 Münchhausen stories exist which were alleged told by the real Münchhausen (but only four are verifiable from him) or which include him as a figure. The real Münchhausen though never liked the books as he felt like they were portraying him in a ridiculous way.
Otto Weidt was born in 1883 and is one of the most famous imposters from Germany, who used his power to protect other people. He is considered as one of the big great heroes during the time of National Socialism in Germany in the mid 20th century. Almost similar to Oscar Schindler, but far more authentic (Otto Weidt is often called the “Oscar Schindler of Hackescher Markt” – a famous place in Berlin), Weidt rescued many Jews from deportation by employing them in his workshop for blind people. When the Holocaust broke out, factory owner Weidt, who himself was blind, mainly employed blind and deaf Jews during the time of World War II. They produced brooms and brushes and mainly came from the Jewish home for blinds in Berlin. When the deportations increased and Otto Weidt had to watch powerlessly how the Jewish victims were taken out of the houses, he tried to declare the workers irreplaceable by announcing that he was producing war-important goods, which he succeeded in doing with the help of bribing the Gestapo. When the threats increased, Weidt even sought hiding places for some of his employees.