What was the crime that originated Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm syndrome, a term first coined by Swedish psychiatrist Nils Bejerot in 1973, describes a psychological phenomenon where captives develop positive feelings and a bond with their captors. It emerged prominently during the Norrmalmstorg robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, which took place over six intense days in August 1973.

The robbery was orchestrated by Jan-Erik Olsson, a convict serving a three-year sentence who had been granted temporary leave but instead chose to commit a daring bank heist. Armed with a submachine gun, Olsson stormed into a bank in Norrmalmstorg Square, taking three bank employees hostage: Kristin Enmark, Birgitta Lundblad, and Elisabeth Oldgren. He demanded a bulletproof vest, a getaway car, and a substantial sum of money, as well as the release of fellow bank robber Clark Olofsson from prison.

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As negotiations ensued, the hostages found themselves forming unexpected bonds with their captors. Olsson displayed acts of kindness, offering comfort to Lundblad when she became distressed and providing warmth to Enmark when she felt cold. Meanwhile, the authorities outside worked tirelessly to resolve the situation, while the hostages, tethered to ropes, were allowed to wander within the bank’s confines.

Despite the tense standoff, the hostages displayed empathy and even expressed concern for their captors’ safety. Enmark, in a conversation with the prime minister, voiced her willingness to remain a hostage if it ensured Olsson’s safe departure with the money. This remarkable display of solidarity continued throughout the ordeal, with the hostages refusing to abandon Olsson and Olofsson, fearing they might be harmed by the authorities.

The situation reached a climax on the sixth day when tear gas was unexpectedly released into the vault where the hostages were held. Amidst the chaos, the robbers surrendered, and the hostages emerged unharmed, albeit emotionally shaken. Despite their traumatic experience, the hostages displayed remarkable loyalty toward Olsson and Olofsson, even refusing to testify against them in court.

The aftermath of the Norrmalmstorg robbery left a lasting impression on the public, highlighting the complex dynamics of captivity and the resilience of the human spirit. The extraordinary behavior of the hostages, characterized by empathy and compassion toward their captors, serves as a stark reminder of the profound psychological impact of traumatic events.