Forty years ago, on August 23rd, 1973, after four people were taken hostage by a bank robber in a Stockholm bank, the hostage drama that unfolded over the next 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.

Photo Credits: The header image is a press photographer and police sniper side by side on a roof opposite the Kreditbanken bank. 

Posted by Robert Horvat

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

2 Comments

  1. Great post. I always think of the Patty Hearst story and the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Was it Stockholm Syndrome or brainwashing?

    Reply

    1. Certainly a very bizarre case. Your guess is as good as mine.

      Reply

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