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Only in Germany: The Captain of Koepenick's Historic Coup

Carl Zuckmeyer: Der Hauptmann von KoepenickOne hundred years ago, on October 16th, 1906, a German impostor named Wilhelm Voigt masqueraded as a Prussian military officer. He had purchased parts of used captain's uniforms from two different shops. In the Berlin district of Koepenick he went to the local army barracks, stopped four grenadiers and a sergeant on their way back to barracks and told them to come with him. Indoctrinated to obey officers without question, they followed. He dismissed the commanding sergeant to report to his superiors and later commandeered 6 more grenadiers from a shooting range. Then he took the soldiers to the Köpenick city hall and told them to cover all exits. He had the town secretary Rosenkranz and mayor Georg Langerhans arrested for suspicions of crooked bookkeeping and confiscated 4000 marks and 70 pfennigs - with a receipt, of course. (Summarized via Wikipedia.) Hat tip: Observing Hermann.
Good background info about Wilhelm Voigt and his coup and the public perception as well as information about the anniversary commemoration at Koepenickia.

Carl Zuckmeyer wrote an outstanding, funny and heart-wrenching play about Wilhelm Voigt, militarism and bureaucracy (Without a job he can't register with the police to get an appartment. And without police registration and an apartment he can't get a job...). The Jewish Journal points out:
Of all the books written on German militarism, "The Captain From Koepenick," by German playwright Carl Zuckmayer, is not only one of the great all-time satires, but penetrates to the heart of the matter more pointedly than a dozen treatises.
The play premiered in 1930 and immediately earned its author a place on the Nazis' enemy list. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Zuckmayer was a marked man, more for his political views than for his mother's descent from an assimilated Jewish family.
Carl Zuckmeyer emigrated to Vermont. Last week David with Dialog International skirted Woodstock, where Zuckmayer
owned and operated a 100-acre farm in the late 1940s.  Of all the exiled Weimar artists, Zuckmayer had a close and unique understanding of ordinary Americans, something he wrote about in his long essay Amerika ist anders.  Early on in his stay in America, Zuckmayer came to the sober realization that there wasn't a huge market in his new country for German plays. He turned to neighbors in Vermont to teach him about milking cows and cultivating the land. He managed to eke out a living  on his farm - a trying time for him and his wife, but ultimately very enriching.  His wife Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer later wrote about this time in a charming memoir Die Farm in den gruenen Bergen. (,
Only the German Amazon (but not the US Amazon) sells Carl Zuckmeyer's great play Der Hauptmann von Koepenick ("Captain of Kopenick"), and the extremely funny DVD of the movie with Heinz Ruehmann (1956) and the made-for-TV-movie with Harald Juhnke (1977).


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Chris on :

This is fantastic.

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