He must have been a man with real guts. Wilhelm Voigt wanted nothing more than to join the military, but his life took a completely different turn. He was sent to prison several times for trying to improve his lot with petty thievery, and then nobody wanted to have him; wherever he went he was not allowed to stay, even with his sister in Berlin. That was Germany in 1906, where the military enjoyed the very highest respect. So for his next venture Wilhelm Voigt got himself the uniform of a captain of the First Regiment of Guards, which was a unit attached directly to the Kaiser. Then he recruited a few soldiers and took the suburban train to Köpenick and occupied the Town Hall. He confiscated the treasury and issued a receipt for it in correct bureaucratic fashion, and then left. He might have got away with it if a former cellmate had not given him away. His coup caused a great wave of amusement and Schadenfreude, not only in Germany, but also far beyond. The Captain of Köpenick, as Voigt was now nicknamed, was given a relatively mild sentence and was pardoned early by the Kaiser himself. After that he was a media star and even managed to amass a small fortune. He recorded his life in an autobiography – which was probably more legend than memoir. But fate was not kind to Wilhelm Voigt. In the Great Inflation he lost everything and when he died there was barely enough left for a pauper’s grave. But his story made other people rich -it has been turned into literature, theatre and film.

The statue of the Captain of Köpenick was made by the Armenian artist Spartak Babajan after his design won the competition run by the District of Köpenick in 1996. His figure was cast in bronze by the Seiler Foundry and stands by the staircase at the entrance to Köpenick Town Hall, where anybody passing by can just give his hand a disrespectful shake.