Hello, Lovelies! Welcome to the week where Rebecca decided she didn’t want to research and let someone else do it for her (apparently her laziness outweighs her need for control). Below you will find the notes Rebecca read from (verbatim) along with sources and images she could find.
Today we’re going to try to explain why Rebecca’s here.
And it wasn’t because of a game of Twister in small town Georgia.
1973. The biggest collars ever are on every shirt, bell bottoms were in fashion and no man knew how to button his shirt past his belly button. Tweed was popular for the first time outside of academia and a woman’s hair had its own personality.
Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s continue.
A man walks into Sveriges Kreditbank located in the upscale Norrmalmstorg square shortly after it opened. There’s loads of people there- about 40 employees and a handful of customers, but this particular man seems to stick out. He carries a large canvas suitcase in one arm and a coat in the other.
This might seem weird, as it’s the 23rd of August, but his amazing sense of style continued with a thick brown wig, black eyebrows and mustache and set of toy glasses. This man is Jan-Erik Olsson and, despite being born in Sweden, he spoke English with an American accent as he pulled a loaded sub-machine gun from under his coat, shot at the ceiling and yelled “The party has just begun!”
Sveriges Kreditbank was one of Stockholm’s largest banks and this act would set off a 6-day hostage crisis. Yeah. We’re talking about the Norrmalmstorg robbery- the event that led to the creation of the term “Stockholm syndrome”.
A little background on Olsson:
He was born April 16th, 1941 in Ekeby, outside Helsingborg, Sweden. He was known to local authorities as a thief and safe cracker with a tendency for explosives. The year before (1972), he had been convicted of grand larceny in probably the best way possible. He got caught robbing an older couple’s house in Helsingborg.
(A/N: Shush that’s not why it’s great.)
The husband was so shocked at the event (which like, super fair considering everything), he keeled over right there and then. His wife asked Olsson to rush into the kitchen and get her husband’s heart medicine. Which he did. Olsson then went ahead and returned to looting the couple’s home before leaving with a bunch of their stuff. (I can’t find anything on the status of the couple, I’m sure they were fine afterwards. Probably.) This stunt landed him 3 years in a prison in south Stockholm. (A/N: So probably Chaotic Good?)
As you might have noticed, the date of his conviction and the date of the robbery are awfully close and not separated by the length of his full sentence. That’s because in Sweden prisoners get “furlough” or “leave” time where they can leave prison for a few days at a time. This is in an effort to ease people back into their everyday lives. (A/N: ??? in Confused Ignorant American but apparently Sweden is the leader in prison reform so jokes on us, our prison system’s fucked anyway).
The problem here is… the prisoners are supposed to come back.
Olsson didn’t do that.
Instead he robbed a bank.
Anyway. Back to the party.
Most of the people in the bank dropped to the floor, but some hid in the back while others ran out of the bank into the public square. Olsson casually walked up to the teller counter, pulled out a transistor radio from his suitcase and turned it on full blast, turning it to a rock music station. He then ordered a male employee to tie up, Kristin E(h)nmark (a 23 year old stenographer, who was at the bank to deliver a letter), Brigitta Lundbland (31 bank employee) and Elisabeth Oldgren (21 bank cashier).
(Kristin later said that she thought she was seeing something that could only happen in America and like. Ouch. But also yeahhhhh)
Olsson shouted “I want to talk to the police!” and was soon met by a plains-clothed sergeant Morgan Rylander who was in the area and picked up the signal set off by a tripped silent alarm. Rylander identified himself as a police officer and Olsson asked him if he was a high ranking/important.
Rylander said no, but he offered to call one to come to the scene. Olsson allowed it, going up to the 2nd floor of the bank where the offices were (and where the police would start setting up a base camp as there was a back entrance on that floor). While this happened, plains-clothed Detective Inspector Ingemar Warpefeldt appeared on the 2nd floor… with a revolver.
Even though Olsson didn’t see him, Brigitta did and told the detective inspector not to shoot. After Warpefeldt introduced himself and ordered Olsson to drop his gun, Olsson shot him in the right hand (#coolcoolcool) before allowing the officer to retreat. Rylander came back and said another officer was coming to the bank.
Olsson seemed okay with this development, so he ordered him to sit and then, at gunpoint, to sing a song. Rylander chose Elvis Presley’s “Lonesome Cowboy” (A/N: because Presley was American and thought Olsson would like hearing a tune ~familiar~ to him). Pleased enough with the performance, Olsson then ordered Rylander to take everyone but the three tied up women out of the bank in groups of 2 and 3 before ordering him to leave (A/N: I’m assuming Rylander went off to change into a fresh pair of underwear).
Police Superintendent Sven Thorander had arrived on the scene and was important enough for Olsson to care. When they started negotiating, Olsson demanded:
- the release of Clark Olofsson, a 26 year old man who was serving a 6 year sentence for armed robbery and acting as an accessory in the murder of a policeman in Norrköping penitentiary
- 3 million kronor or $710,000 (A/N: Inflation values in 2020: ~20.89 Million Kronor or 4.3 Million USD)(hard hikes, Kronor currency)
- 2 pistols
- bullet proof vests
- a fast getaway car
- the ability to leave the bank safely with the hostages.
Later that day the police delivered Clark, the ransom and even a blue Mustang with a full tank of gas to the bank but refused to let them leave with the hostages. They also provided a telephone so that everyone inside the bank could communicate with the outside world (A/N: I think because all the telephones in the bank already were on the 2nd floor where the police were so this one was kept on the 1st floor/where Olsson and Clark were).
Once Olsson and Clark reconnected in the bank, Olsson seemed a bit more at ease- he even untied the hostages, although they moved everyone into the inner main vault and barricaded it. The vault was near the toilets, a staircase to talk to the police on the 2nd floor and safely hidden away from snipers. When he patrolled the perimeter with his gun (he called it “my lawyer”), he always kept hostages close to him so that snipers surrounding the bank could never get a clean shot. Clark took on the role of ‘good cop’ pretty soon after his arrival, always emphasizing that everything would be fine, often comforting the women.
But he was still working with Olsson, so he was doing what he was told (and running with it, a bit). During one of Clark’s patrols around the bank, he found junior bank employee Sven Säfström (age 25) who had hidden himself in the stockroom. Realizing that it would be more problematic to let him go, Sven was told “Well, come and have a drink with us” and became the 4th hostage.
Through the first day, Olsson and Clark were practically pleasant to be around. They were acting in ways that comforted the hostages. After the initial sequestering in the vault, Elisabeth started complaining about claustrophobia so Olsson gave her a 30 foot rope to tie around her neck (aka: a leash) so she could walk around outside the vault. Once when Kristin and Birgitta went to the bathroom (unleashed), police asked them how many hostages were being held. Kristin showed them, using her fingers, but was already starting to feel conflicted, later saying “I felt like a traitor. I didn’t know why.”
Things got weirder as time went on, too. That night, Kristin was awoken by a chill in the vault and Olsson gave her his wool jacket, soothed her from a bad dream and gave her a bullet as a keepsake. When trying to talk to their families on the phone, Birgitta could only reach her dagmamma (day mother) but Olsson soothed her by telling her to keep trying and to not give up.
By the second day, all the hostages were on a first name basis with the captors and generally had a negative attitude towards the police outside, accusing them of playing with their lives. Kristin told reporters “We are more afraid of the policemen than these two boys[…] We are discussing, and, believe it or not, having a rather good time here. Why can’t they let the boys drive off with us in the car.”
But Olsson still had a point to prove and a goal to achieve. He threatened to shoot Sven to show to the police they weren’t fucking around. Except he said he wouldn’t kill Sven (as he had originally planned), but he’d aim very carefully and only shoot him in the leg. All he had to do was go to the bottom of the staircase on Olsson’s signal so he could be shot and fall within eyesight of the police. But don’t worry- he could drink all the beer on hand until the signal came to steel himself.
Sven thought this was actually a kind act to only shoot him in the leg, although he remained apprehensive and had to keep reminding himself of his situation. Kristin even told him “But Sven, it’s just in the leg.”
When the police commissioner went inside the bank to inspect the health status of all the hostages, he noted that they were very relaxed around the gunmen but hostile towards him, as they had developed a “rather relaxed relationship”. This confirmed his theory that the men would actually harm the hostages which he then relayed to the press…
…Who were going insane. This was the first criminal event in Sweden to be covered by live TV and was everywhere. Both Olsson and the hostages ended up speaking to the press using the phones inside the bank.
Olsson’s bonkers quote:
“The police are to blame for the whole mess… All I did was to get into the bank—well, a robbery, of course, but that’s my job,” Olsson said. “And then two policemen came heading towards me waving guns. Of course I shot. That’s how it started.” (emphasis my own)
Kristin even spoke to the Prime Minister: “I fully trust Clark and [Olsson][…] I am not desperate. They haven’t done a thing to us. On the contrary, they have been very nice. But, you know[…] what I am scared of is that the police will attack and cause us to die.”
The police decided they needed more information (like, where exactly in the bank everyone is located- the 2nd floor base camp didn’t provide much in terms of view, so its strategic importance is meh and was mostly used for talking down the staircase). So on the 3rd day the police (basically) peek open a door and take a look around to see everyone inside the vault. (A/N: The actual description is “Then a policeman comes with a creative idea. He takes a long iron bar, goes to the railing and climbs a chair from which he can reach the door and open it so that they can see inside”. But I have no idea what that means)
So they go ahead and close the door to the vault, locking everyone inside. In the dark. Olsson and Clark counter by blocking the door with two cabinets.
(A/N: Ok so can we take a minute here to talk about something? Sure they had food and some drinks… but now they have no toilets. And they’re in the dark. Do you poop in a corner? How do you know what corner to poop in? Even when your eyes adjust, this is still pretty shitty. And the smell… jfc ok I’m done)
Due to all the press coverage, the public wanted in on this and couldn’t get enough. And because humans never change, the public thought they had better ideas than people doing their jobs (A/N: cough cough scientists, CDC, WHO, *rages in self isolation*) and came up with some genius suggestions to handle retrieving the hostages (with questionable safety of everyone involved). These ideas include:
- Set up a concert of religious tunes by a Salvation Army
- Sending in a swarm of angry bees to sting Olsson and Clark into submission. A/N:
- Putting soap on all the floors so everyone would slip and fall
- Fill up the vault with tennis balls so the criminals couldn’t move
(A/N: Ok so I’m probably on a list now. But I went around and found an instructables for building your own bank vault. Well, a company would build it based on specifics. Based on what I could gather, it’s not uncommon for a bank vault to be 7 feet tall. I found a number that said 19 feet wide was an acceptable/average width and the depth, while variable, could be the same as the width as a square vault also isn’t uncommon.
Base assumptions for the math: The vault is empty, no furniture or humans.
This might account for the fact this theoretical vault is smaller than the actual vault which I could not find specs on.
You’d need 474,494 tennis balls to fill a vault that size. Which, today in 2020, will cost about $1.147 million on Amazon. (This is $197,249.90 in 1973)
So that’s the minimum cost to execute this plan, especially because the actual bank vault would probably be bigger.
You could buy so many Midnight Milky Ways with that money.
As amazing as these ideas were, on the 4th day, the police decided to go in a more tear gas-y direction. They start drilling through the half-meter thick ceiling of the vault to help pass supplies to the hostages (and also in preparation for use of tear gas).
Sidebar: Until this point, everyone thought the main robber was a man named Kaj Hansson, a known bank robber with a thick southern Swedish accent on the run from prison. They even brought his brother in earlier in the week to try to talk to the captors. This wasn’t corrected until the real Kaj Hansson called the police from Hawaii and was like “.. yeah nope, that’s not me”. Actually, he was so offended that he “indignantly denied that he would stoop to so foul a deed as taking hostages. For his trouble, he was extradited and returned to a Swedish jail”. (A/N: WHY IS THIS SO FUNNY)
The holes in the vault ceiling are covered by bullet proof glass after Olsson tries to shoot a police officer who tries to look inside (but he’s stopped by Clark before being able to fire a shot). Because of this stunt, the police demand the robbers to surrender all guns and explosives.
Weirdly enough, Olsson wasn’t keen on the idea of giving up his guns or his explosives, so on the 5th day (We started on a Thursday, now it’s Monday), he wires the bank door with explosives as a preventative measure. He also put a noose on each hostage, making them stand in front of safe-deposit cabinets. The ropes tied to handles of the cabinet drawers so that if tear gas was deployed, the hostage would fall and hang themselves.
With the new holes in the vault ceiling though, the police finally managed to ID Jan-Erik Olsson. They realize he’s mostly known for non-violent crimes so they contact someone who owns the model of the cabinets used as a barricade to determine how hard it would be for officers to move them out of the way. (A/N: imagine being a police officer and having to do that. “Bro I think you have a specific cabinet I’m looking for. No, I don’t want it, I just need to see if I can move it real quick”) Once they get their answer, it’s full steam ahead with their tear gas plan.
On day 6, Olsson manages to shoot through the holes in the ceiling, hitting officer Olle Abrahamsson in the arm and his face. Olsson and Clark were really pleased by this, despite the fact that the officer survived his injuries.
Thanks to faulty equipment, the rescue operation was delayed until 21:05. Police reached out to the radio station and asked them specifically not to share details of the mission. Because Olsson had a radio with him. And listening to the radio stations reporting on police plans. (Remember? Rock music?) (A/N: This is the worst operational security I’ve ever seen wtf)
Faulty equipment continues to plague the mission as the tear gas doesn’t work as expected (or at all?). Despite this, Olsson surrenders anyway. 32 minutes after the gas was deployed, he gave up his gun and all his explosives through the holes in the ceiling.
The police wanted the hostages to come out first but the four refused- Kristin even yelled out “No, Jan and Clark go first—you’ll gun them down if we do!” After the police agree to have the Olsson and Clark go first, the convicts and hostages hugged, kissed and shook hands in the doorway of the vault (#JealousInQuarantine).
Olsson was the first to leave after the 130 hour standoff. Two of the female hostages begged the police “Don’t hurt them- they didn’t harm us.” Kristin even reached out to Clark as he was being arrested, shouting “I will see you again”. (A/N Sidenote: Kristin and Clark seemed really close through this entire incident, more so than the other hostages. Couldn’t tell you why. But I personally think Kirstin was affected the most by this experience)
Both Olsson and Clark were charged, convicted and sentenced with extended prison sentences for the event, although Clark eventually got his overturned since he technically didn’t help Olsson and was only doing what he was told/was brought in from prison to do this. Olsson was sentenced to 10 years and served his full sentence and, as of 2006, has been a pretty up-and-up type of guy since then.
That being said, the protective behavior of the hostages didn’t stop at the vault. They routinely visited their captors while they were in prison, and they all refused to testify against any of their captors in court- they actually raised money for their defense.
So…. What was going on?
No one really knew. Not even the hostages themselves. Elisabeth spoke with a psychiatrist the next day and asked “Is there something wrong with me? Why don’t I hate them?”
At the time, Dr. Lennart Ljonggren described their condition as similar to victims of the shock of war. Swedish psychiatrist Nils Bejerot- who was present during the robbery- determined that the hostages’ actions were due to brainwashing, keying the term Norrmalmstorgssyndromet. Due to the fact that’s unpronounceable to anyone outside of Sweden, it was later known as Stockholm syndrome.
Encyclopedia Britannica says “The survival instinct is at the heart of Stockholm syndrome […] Victims live in enforced dependence and interpret rare or small acts of kindness in the midst of horrible conditions as good treatment.”
The first use of Stockholm syndrome in a legal sense was in 1974 in the case of kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst where she claimed it as a defense (spoiler alert: It didn’t work).
*** Although it is widely known, ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is not recognized by the APA and is often contested. In fact, when asked if he believed in the idea of Stockholm syndrome in 2013, Olsson said “What the heck is a syndrome anyway? I don’t know.”
And that is the story of the Norrmalmstorg robbery, the origin of Stockholm syndrome and why Rebecca shouldn’t offer to let friends write her notes.
(The most detailed article ever, to the point I stopped with it as a narrative device cuz it’s too long)