Little Bits of History

Stockholm Syndrome

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2014
Hostages held in the vault

Hostages held in the vault

August 23, 1973: Jan-Erik “Janne” Olsson attempts to rob yet another bank. He was on leave from prison when he entered the Kreditbanken at Normalmstorg in central Stockholm, Sweden. Police were immediately called and two officers entered the bank. Olsson opened fire, minimally wounding one of the officers. The second officer was told to sit in a chair and “sing something” and complied. Olsson took four people hostage and demanded his friend, Clark Olofsson, be brought to the bank along with 3 million Kroner, two guns, bulletproof vests, helmets, and a fast car. Olofsson was a repeat offender of armed robberies and other violent crimes with his first arrest at age 16.

Olofsson was brought to the bank to help with police communications. The two criminals barricaded the inner main vault and placed their hostages there. Negotiators granted them the use of a car, but refused to allow any hostages to leave the building. Olsson called the Prime Minister and threatened to kill hostages and grabbed one, causing her to scream as he ended the call. The next day, Olsson again called the PM and had hostage, Kristin Enmark, speak. She was unhappy with the government response, the PM’s attitude, and wanted the criminals and the hostages to be given permission to leave.

On August 26, police drilled a hole in the ceiling and took pictures of the hostages. Olofsson fired his weapon into the hole, wounding another police officer and Olsson threatened to kill hostages if gas was used. On August 28, gas was used and after a half hour, Olsson and Olofsson surrendered without permanently injuring any of the hostages. Both men were charged, convicted, and sentenced for their actions. Olofsson maintained he was simply trying to keep Olsson calm and the hostages sided with him to help get his conviction overturned. The term “Stockholm syndrome” was coined in response to this crime.

Stockholm syndrome is also known as capture-bonding and is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy as well as other positive emotions toward their captors. The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that about 8% of victims show some evidence of Stockholm syndrome. The Lima syndrome is the opposite type of behavior wherein the abductors begin to feel kind emotions toward their victims. This is more likely to happen when there are several abductors and one or more of them disagree with the leader and begin to advocate for the better treatment of the hostages. It is named for the abduction at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru.

There is a thin line between peace of the brave and peace of the hostage… between compromise – even calculated risk – and irresponsibility and capitulation. – Ehud Barak

Freeing hostages is like putting up a stage set, which you do with the captors, agreeing on each piece as you slowly put it together; then you leave an exit through which both the captor and the captive can walk with sincerity and dignity. – Terry Waite

The rise of computer crime and armed robbery has not eliminated the lure of caged cash. – James Chiles

But even before that, in 1980 I went so far as to write a book about what had happened. And I wrote all about the bank robbery, I went ahead and printed it even though I had no use immunity for it. – Patty Hearst

Also on this day: The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Holy God – In 1948, the World Council of Churches was founded.
Fannie Farmer – In 1902, Fannie Farmer opened her own cooking school.
French Wars of Religion – In 1532, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres begin.

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