Räuberleiter: When you give someone a leg up, Germans will say you are “building a robber‘s ladder”

roughly: “robber’s ladder” / meaning: the act of giving someone a leg-up

If you want to reach high, you have to work together. This is true for both small and big robbers alike. During my childhood days, our neighbor had a cherry tree whose fruits literally urged us to commit theft every summer.

When the coast was clear, I would let my schoolmate climb with his feet on my clasped hands to give him the crucial height advantage. He would grab the loot—and we could share it. This act of giving someone a leg-up is called Räuberleiter in German. The term relates to the fact that robbers often used this method to reach low openings in buildings, such as windows. The technique is also taught by the German Bundeswehr—they even refer to it by this seemingly unmilitary name.

Until this day, the Räuberleiter is often used to look over obstacles, such as high fences. And no, my schoolmate and I never used our skills by the girls’ changing booth at our local public swimming pool. We were already gentlemen back then.



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