Wilhelm Voigt wasn't the kind of guy who becomes a folk hero. For the first 57 years of life, he was an aimless drifter, supporting himself with burglary, forgery, and occasionally making shoes. In 1906, however, something clicked. Voigt was no criminal mastermind -- if anything, his commitment to stealing shit despite always getting caught in itself an inspiration. But that year, he had a brilliant idea that turned an entire country's culture of militarization against itself and also got him 4,000 marks (that's what they called money).

That is to say, he got hold of a German military captain's uniform and realized people would do whatever he told them while he was wearing it. That was it. Having gained Jedi mind powers courtesy of German patriotism, he traveled to a random military base, pointed at some soldiers, and told them, "You, you, you, and you, come with me." They did so without question, so he took them to the city hall of Kopenick, assured the local police that everything was on the up and up, but if they could block calls to Berlin from the local post office for an hour or so, that would be great, ordered "his" troops to arrest the mayor for cooking the books, and "confiscated" the marks. Why? Unclear. He doesn't seem to have any previous connection to Kopenick or its mayor. He just woke up that day and chose chaos.

While the arresting soldiers ferried the mayor to Berlin and the rest stood guard at city hall, Voigt commandeered two carriages, told them he was totally right behind them, and dipped. It slowly dawned on all involved what had just happened, and when the story got out, the public went nuts -- for Voigt. Unlike most outlaw heroes, he didn't even need a good reason for his crime; Germans are impressed by audacity and nothing else.

He probably would have never been caught if he could have resisted bragging to a former cellmate, but he was pardoned by the Kaiser himself, who thought the whole thing was both hilarious and evidence that his authoritarian hold over the people was working. Voigt became a celebrated figure in Germany, with figures in wax museums and plays about him, and he showed up to every event to pose (that is, charge) for photos. Even today, there are statues, plaques, and even postage stamps to commemorate the guy who ripped off multiple branches of government by that very government. 

Wie sagt man? "Got to give it up."

Top image: Wiki Commons, Membeth/Wikimedia Commons

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