Nothing prevented Reimund Holzhey from building an honest life in the United States as an immigrant from Germany. Two uncles had settled in America years before he chose the New World and were successful entrepreneurs in the Midwest. He could fall back on them. Holzhey also had an excellent mind and was not afraid to roll up his sleeves.
Yet he ended up on the wrong path, it turns out that in The last heist. The improbable life of Reimund Holzhey (1866-1952) by Gabri van Tussenbroek and Tanja Holzhey (a distant relative indeed). In the spring and summer of 1889, individual travelers, stage coaches and trains in the Great Lakes region confronted a thief known as “Black Bart”. He committed the kind of theft that we will see later in westerns.
The man was not masked and this quickly resulted in a description: A not too tall man with a black mustache showed up unexpectedly and asked for valuables. He was not afraid of aggression. He even killed one during his last robbery. After a manhunt, the man police had suspected the perpetrator for some time, Richard Holzhey, was arrested.
During his arrest, he lost consciousness with a bat. No strong emotions at Holjey. He complimented the people who arrested him for their great job and immediately confessed to his crimes.
The book is almost halfway with this arrest, but the best part is yet to come. With the trade in photos of the robber which was certainly lucrative. With the myth that the press has made of him, especially after being taken hostage by a guard and fellow inmates in the hope of being shot dead themselves. But especially with the search for the source of the madness that crept into Holzhey’s head around the misdeeds. Was he a cunning criminal or a sick person?
The robber’s verdict changed: at the end of his trial, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and forced labor. In the years that followed, people began to look at him differently based on his demeanor, intelligence, work as a librarian and editor of a prison newspaper, as well as his outspoken confessions about his illness. And while staying temporarily in an institution for inmates with mental disorders, Holzhey underwent (possibly brain) surgery. This intervention brought improvements and even excited the Dutch press of the time: the officers would die of obesity.
Van Tussenbroek and Holzhey are with The last robbery away from their normal subjects. In everyday life he is professor of urban identity at the University of Amsterdam and has written many books on the history of this city. She is well versed in radical lighting ideas on stage. But they had fun examining Holzhey’s accidentally found relative.
Gabri van Tussenbroek & Tanja Holzhey
The last heist. The improbable life of Reimund Holzhey (1866-1952)
Prometheus; 302 pages 22.50 €
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