An escaped Swedish convict, disguised with a girl’s curly wig, blue-tinted sun shades, a dyed-black mustache and rouged cheeks, walked right into a Stockholm financial institution shortly after it opened on Aug. 23, 1973, fired a submachine gun into the ceiling and yelled, in English with an American accent, “The occasion begins!”
When that convict, Jan-Erik Olsson, first walked into the financial institution that Thursday, the workers who would turn out to be his hostages felt nothing however concern. “I believed a maniac had come into my life,” then-23-year-old financial institution clerk Kristin Enmark later instructed the New Yorker. “I believed I used to be seeing one thing that would solely occur in America.”
However the hostages’ terror didn’t final. In actual fact, over the course of the following six-day standoff, which shocked and enthralled the Swedish public and dumbfounded the police, a stunning bond shaped between the robber and his 4 captives.
It spawned, ultimately, a brand new psychological time period: Stockholm syndrome.
Sweden had by no means skilled something just like the drama that unfolded 50 years in the past on the Sveriges Kreditbank, in Stockholm’s upscale Norrmalmstorg sq..
Crime was low within the nation, recognized for its peace, prosperity and liberal social welfare. However there have been criminals. Olsson had been serving a three-year sentence for grand larceny, till the jail launched him on non permanent furlough early that August for good habits. He merely by no means returned, and he started planning a really unorthodox theft.
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The disguised Olsson determined towards making off with the financial institution’s cash, as a substitute taking its younger staff hostage and making calls for of the police after they arrived. He wished 3 million Swedish kronor (about $710,000 on the time) and a quick getaway automobile. Plus, to help along with his plan, he wished the police to ship him an confederate: his former prison-block neighbor Clark Olofsson, a serial financial institution robber whose string of inventive jail escapes had made him a digital superstar in Sweden.
Olsson wagered that there was no likelihood “the federal government would danger killing the ladies if he didn’t get his approach,” David King wrote in “Six Days in August: The Story of Stockholm Syndrome.” “Not in Sweden. Definitely not this 12 months, when the prime minister confronted an in depth election.”
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So, with sharpshooters swarming across the constructing, Olsson retreated contained in the financial institution vault along with his hostages, leaving the door solely barely ajar, and waited for his calls for to be met. Enmark’s arms and toes had been tied, together with these of her colleagues: financial institution teller Elisabeth Oldgren, 21, and Birgitta Lundblad, 31 and the one hostage who was married with kids.
Initially, the gamble paid off. The cash, the automobile — a blue Ford Mustang — and Olofsson himself all arrived at Kreditbank by the top of the day. In response to King, Olsson envisioned driving off with the baggage of cash, Olofsson and some hostages, then escaping Sweden by boat.
However whereas police technically fulfilled his calls for, they withheld the Mustang’s keys. Olsson and his rising group have been caught.
Nervous and short-tempered, Olsson shouted orders that day and threatened to kill individuals who resisted. He already had shot one police officer within the hand. However the nice jail escapee Olofsson’s arrival within the afternoon introduced these inside some welcome calm.
“After I got here, they have been terrified,” Olofsson mentioned in 2019 on the podcast “Prison.” “After 5 minutes, they have been cool. I mentioned, ‘Hey, take it straightforward, we’re going to repair this.’” He untied the three girls and, strolling across the financial institution for surveillance, discovered one other worker, Sven Säfstrom, 24, hiding in a inventory room. Säfstrom grew to become the fourth hostage.
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Olofsson introduced in one of many financial institution’s telephones and related it contained in the vault in order that the hostages might name their households. When Lundblad couldn’t attain her husband and youngsters, she started to cry. Olsson, her captor, touched her cheek, based on the New Yorker, and mentioned softly, “Attempt once more, don’t surrender.”
Day 2: Information crews and a near-shooting
On Friday, after the primary evening within the vault, Oldgren was feeling claustrophobic, so Olsson minimize an extended piece of rope, tied it round her neck and let her stroll across the financial institution on a 30-foot leash. Later, he draped his jacket round her shoulders when she was shivering from the chilly.
Because the day progressed, Olsson grew annoyed over the stalemate with authorities. He persuaded Säfstrom to permit Olsson to shoot him within the thigh in entrance of the police to show he was severe. Olsson promised the shot would simply graze him. “It’s solely within the leg,” Enmark mentioned as encouragement, based on “Six Days in August.”
Säfstrom waited for a sign to get in place, however Olsson didn’t observe by. “I nonetheless don’t know why the sign by no means got here,” Säfstrom instructed the New Yorker. “All that comes again to me is how type I thought he was for saying it was my simply my leg he would shoot.”
In the meantime, onlookers crowded Norrmalmstorg sq. exterior, and information crews lined the occasions relentlessly, interviewing the hostages and their captors by cellphone all day Friday. The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet dubbed it “the pornography of violence.”
Round 5 p.m., Enmark talked to Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, and radio and TV stations broadcast clips of their dialog. She requested Palme to permit Olsson to go away the financial institution and drive off with the cash, and she or he volunteered to go alongside as his captive.
“I absolutely belief Clark and the robber. I’m not determined. They haven’t achieved a factor to us,” Enmark mentioned. “Quite the opposite, they’ve been very good. However you understand, Olof, what I’m petrified of is that the police will assault and trigger us to die.”
Palme refused, claiming that it will endanger the general public “to let folks out on the roads with weapons and harmless folks.” The police, with no precedent to information their response, have been already overwhelmed.
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Olsson’s disguise, it turned out, had succeeded: The police had no thought who he was, and so they ended up misidentifying him as one other jail escapee Olofsson had recognized, Kaj Hansson. They even introduced in Hansson’s teenage brother, Dan, to motive with the robber, solely to be met with gunfire. Later, the police had Dan name the vault cellphone, based on King
Dan hung up after speaking to Olsson and referred to as the policemen “idiots.” “You will have the improper man!” he yelled.
Day 3: A ‘bond of friendship’ shaped
On Saturday morning, after the second evening within the Kreditbank department, the police tried a dangerous resolution. An officer snuck in and closed the door of the vault, locking the hostages inside with Olsson and Olofsson. For these within the vault, the open door had been their lifeline, by which the police had delivered foods and drinks to maintain them and thru which Olsson had maintained slim hope of escaping. That hope was now gone.
Cellphone contact contained in the vault additionally was minimize off to anybody however the police, who feared the media’s limitless entry would ship Olsson a cult standing. With the robber lastly contained, the police additionally hoped everybody inside would kind what Nils Bejerot, a psychiatrist they consulted, described as a “bond of friendship” that may forestall Olsson from inflicting hurt on his captors.
Such connections, in reality, had already begun to kind — and police didn’t foresee how sturdy they’d turn out to be.
That afternoon, not understanding after they would eat subsequent, Olsson pulled out three pears left over from a earlier meal, minimize every in half and gave everybody a portion. All seen Olsson taking the smallest piece, King reported. “When he handled us effectively,” Säfstrom mentioned, based on the New Yorker, “we might consider him as an emergency god.”
As she fell asleep that evening, Enmark might hear everybody’s respiration and inform after they have been in sync. She even tried to alter her respiration to match. “That was our world,” she mentioned. “We have been within the vault with the intention to breathe, to outlive. Whoever threatened that world was our enemy.”
Days 4 and 5: Not only a drill
On Sunday, drilling disrupted the group’s calm.
A crew had began working to punch by the vault from above — ostensibly, the police instructed Olsson, to create a gap extensive sufficient for him to give up his weapon. It took hours to drill by the steel-and-concrete ceiling, and people within the vault deduced the actual motive for it: to pump in tear fuel and pressure the robber to give up.
In response, Olsson positioned the hostages beneath the opening with nooses round their necks, the ropes connected to the highest of a row of safe-deposit containers. He instructed police that if any fuel knocked the captives unconscious, the nooses — and, by extension, the police — would find yourself killing them.
“I didn’t assume he was going to hold us,” Enmark mentioned in 2016, on the podcast “Reminiscence Motel.” However the hostages anxious what the fuel would do to them. Olsson had shared his idea about tear fuel: After quarter-hour of publicity, he instructed them, all of them would undergo everlasting mind injury.
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To bypass the makeshift gallows, staff began drilling extra holes above different elements of the vault. The police despatched a bucket containing sandwiches down the unique gap, the hostages’ first actual meal in days, giving them a short respite from standing of their nooses. As they started to tire, Olsson allow them to rotate in shifts, and Säfstrom requested the robber whether or not he might do the standing for all of them.
“He was an actual man,” Olsson instructed the New Yorker. “He was able to be a hostage for the hostages.”
Day 6: Syndrome or survival tactic?
By Tuesday, the crew had drilled seven holes into the ceiling, and shortly after the final one was accomplished, fuel started pouring into the vault. The hostages have been on their arms and knees, coughing and choking, earlier than Olsson might get them organized again to the nooses. Quickly the police heard voices yelling, “We surrender!”
After opening the door, the police ordered the hostages out first, however they refused, fearful that Olsson and Olofsson could be killed by the police if left alone within the vault. Enmark and Oldgren hugged and kissed Olsson, Säfstrom shook his hand, and Lundblad requested him to jot down to her. Then the robber walked along with his confederate out of the financial institution vault and into police custody.
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Bejerot, the consulting psychiatrist, is credited with coining Stockholm syndrome that 12 months to explain the phenomenon of captives growing emotional bonds with their captors. Skilled associations haven’t accepted it as a psychological prognosis, although it has been invoked since in some instances of abuse, for prisoners of warfare and, notably, within the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, the 12 months after Olsson’s Stockholm theft.
However Enmark, who left the financial institution and have become a psychotherapist, mentioned in 2016 that the hostages’ relationship with Olsson was extra self-preservation than syndrome.
“I believe it’s a approach of blaming the sufferer,” she mentioned. “All of the issues I did was intuition of survival. I wished to outlive. I don’t assume it’s so odd. What would you do?”