Bank Siege at Kredibanken and the Stockholm Syndrome

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Forty years ago, after four people were taken hostage by a bank robber in a Stockholm bank, the hostage drama that unfolded over six days gave rise to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. The phenomenon is still being used and misused today to describe the relationship between captor and captives. It is also sometimes referred to as capture bonding, trauma bonding and terror bonding. Hostages or victims of crime express feelings of compassion and even loyalty to their captors. These feelings are almost always considered illogical in light of the danger or risk experienced by victims. They also tend to mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

In 1973, Jan-Erik Olsson walked into the Kreditbanken at Normalmstorg square in Stockholm pulling out a submachine gun and took four employees as hostages. To add to the drama the police gave into Olsson’s demands by releasing one of Sweden’s most notorious criminals from prison, bank robber Clark Olofsson , who joined in on the hostage ordeal. During their captivity the bank employees became emotionally attached to their captors rejecting assistance from government officials and even defending their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The world was absolutely mortified and shocked by photographs later of them kissing and hugging their captors after release.

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Photo Credits: The header image is a press photographers and police snipers side by side on a roof opposite the Kreditbanken bank. The second image shows two bank employees during the robbery with one of their captors on the right. Both images are licensed and used under the Getty Images embedding service.