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I Was a Criminal (1945)

In Prussia shoemaker Voigt needs a residence permit to get a job, but can only get a job if he already has a permit. He dons a captain's uniform to order a platoon of soldiers to Koepenick to take over the Town Hall to get his permit.



(screenplay), (screen version Der Hauptmann von Köpenick) | 2 more credits »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Obermueller, the Mayor
Kilian, City Hall Guard
Prison Guard
Wallis Clark ...
Mrs. Marie Hoprecht
First Railroad Employee
Second Railroad Employee
Rosenkrantz, the Treasurer
Prison Warden
Knoll, the Factory Personnel Manager
Krakauer, the Second-Hand Dealer
Police Commisioner


The true story of shoemaker Wilhelm Voigt, who is released from prison after many years of hard labor only to find himself in the midst of a Prussian catch-22: To get a residence permit (passport), he must have a job, but he can only get a job if he already has a residence permit. No one in the Prussian-German bureaucracy of 1906 feels compelled to help him: Everything must go by the book! Out of desperation, Voigt breaks into a police station to steal the permit but is caught and again goes to jail. The prison warden loves everything military and has the prisoners re-enact famous battles. Once Voigt is released he has a deep knowledge of military uniforms, military ranks and military speak that he can use to his advantage. In Berlin he buys a used captain's uniform, puts it on and marches towards a platoon of soldiers standing guard. He commands them to follow him to Koepenick, a suburb of Berlin. He is so convincing they follow his orders! Once they arrive he has the soldiers stage ...

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Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »







Release Date:

1 January 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Captain of Koepenick  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Completed as 'Passport to Heaven' in 1941, but unable to find a distributor due to the outbreak of World War II, which made its German settings and characterizations unpalatable to the American public; eventually picked up by Film Classics in 1945, but received few bookings, probably for the same reason; the only review it ever received was in Exhibitor Magazine in July 1946, who also commented on this same problem; eventually picked up for television release by NTA in the 1950's, but only infrequently shown. See more »


Remake of The Captain from Köpenick (1931) See more »

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User Reviews

Moving and Funny
7 February 2002 | by (New Jersey) – See all my reviews

This film used to run on TV in the very early days and is based on a true event. There is a German color version and and earlier version by this same director. This is a small film about a simple man against the state. It is both funny and deeply touching and Basserman gives perhaps his greatest performance. I know it as "Passport to Heaven," but it was released under several titles. It is a shame that this film cannot be found in any format. I remember this:

"I had a dream and a voice said, 'Soon you will take your last gulping breath and stand before God the father. And God will ask you what have you made with your life, and you will have to answer..Doormats...In prison...for all the world to step upon...and God will say, That is not what I gave you life for...You owe me a life....where is it...what have you done with it...Get out..you have come to the wrong department'"

I still remember after all these years...What a shame that you can't see it for yourselves........

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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