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Surprising Science

Stockholm Syndrome – 41 Years Ago Today

The above photo was taken by the Stockholm Police on August 26, 1973, the fourth day of a highly televised bank robbery turned hostage crisis.

On August 23, Jan-Erik Olsson held up a bank located at Norrmalmstorg in central Stockholm. The resulting police response led to Olsson taking four hostages, exchanging fire with the police, and ultimately staging a six-day standoff. Olsson demanded that a friend of his, Clark Olofsson, be allowed into the bank as a liaison. That’s Olofsson in the photo on the right. Three hostages are seated to the left. The photo was taken through a hole the police had drilled into the main vault of the bank.

The incident is most famous for the sympathetic relationship that developed between captives and captors. Psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who served as a police consultant during the crisis, subsequently coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome” to describe similar instances of capture-bonding. 

Learn more about the Norrmalmstorg robbery and Stockholm Syndrome:

“Forty Years Ago, A Swedish Bank Robber Gave Us ‘Stockholm Syndrome'” [Worldcrunch]

“The six day war in Stockholm” []

“Sympathy for the Devil” [Damn Interesting]


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