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1973/8/23 in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm Syndrome

Story - told by Lilliana Grbic

Stockholm is notorious for many various reasons; outstanding architecture, breath-taking panoramic views of the archipelago, great food and somewhat less known, a psychological phenomenon.


We are at the corner, the intersection between Norrmalmstorgsgatan and Hamngatan at Kreditbanken (The Credit Bank). It is ten in the morning, late summer, Thursday, August 23, 1973. A masked man Jan-Erik “Janne” Olsson, steps into the bank and declares in a phoney American accent “the party has just begun!”

Polis Reconstraction

Janne Olsson is on leave from prison. He is armed with a submachine gun and demanding money. The police are alerted by the silent alarm and two policemen arrive at the bank. Olsson opens fire, injures a policeman and shoots bullets in to the ceiling. The robbery is interrupted and Olsson takes four staff members, Birgitta Lundblad, Elisabeth Oldgren, Kristin Ehnmark and Sven Safstrom as hostages and barricades himself in the vault. Now he demands that his friend Clark Olofsson, at the time imprisoned, be brought to the bank. He demands more than $700,000 in Swedish and foreign currency, as well as a getaway car. Clark Olofsson, who was imprisoned in Norrköping, is sent to the bank in the afternoon according to Olsson's demands.

Live Reporting

For the next six days, the Norrmalmstorgs heist dominated the media. And there was a lot to report. The day after, on Friday night, a sniper tried to shoot Olsson, but Olofsson warned him by shooting in to the wall. Olofsson contacts Swedish Radio to give his version of the events. Swedish Radio broadcasts live. A couple of days later, Olsson is identified. The robbers and hostages are barricaded in the vault. The police is trying to access the vault and drills holes but with their first attempt, hostages screams stopped them. In their second attempt, they manage to complete the third hole and use gas to force the robbers to surrender.

All over

Nothing of the above would have been unique except for the fact that the hostages displayed sympathy and togetherness with their captors rather than the police. They criticized the police for their actions, defending the robbers throughout and after the robbery. The hostages spoke of being well treated by Olsson. This unpredicted behaviour, to form a positive relationship with their captors, triggered interest in the academic world. The original label for the behaviour was “Norrmalmstorgssyndromet” and was reported to have been coined by criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot. The term was later replaced by reference to Stockholm and is today known as Stockholm Syndrome.

How did they rob the bank? That is another story...If you visit Nobis Hotel you can still see the holes left as a reminder of the episode.

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