Swedish town nixes statue of woman hitting neo-Nazi
City official says it glorifies violence; protesters cite statues of men holding swords to question that logic
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
In 1985 a Polish-Swedish woman, Danuta Danielsson, swatted a neo-Nazi man with her purse and became a sensation.
The Jewish Danielsson, whose mother survived Auschwitz, struck the skinhead during a march in the Swedish town of Växjö, pronounced Vekyur. Photographer Hans Runesson captured the image, titled “A Woman Hitting a Neo-Nazi With Her Handbag.” It appeared in Swedish and international newspapers and won several awards in Sweden.
Though 30 years have passed, the photograph and Danielsson’s actions are still being discussed. In 2014 artist Susanna Arwin expressed her desire to create a statue of Danielsson in Växjö, even releasing photographs of a bronze model.
But the town’s committee officially prohibited her from doing so last week, Radio Sweden reported last week.
City Councillor Eva Johansson told The Washington Post she fears such a statue would glorify violence; indeed, violence against neo-Nazis, but violence nonetheless.
“We can’t accept that one can hit a person because one does not like him or her,” she said.
But others see the reasoning behind it and even praise the conflicted message of the photograph — and the proposed statue. “Runesson’s picture is far from clear and that’s precisely why it is fascinating. The attack on a Nazi comes from an unexpected direction, from an elderly lady with, yes, a handbag,” Ola Luoto wrote in an opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish daily newspaper.
“She is unquestionably also one of Nazism’s real victims–this is the downtrodden’s reaction to racist violence,” Luoto wrote.
But Johansson stressed that the ultimate reason for the council’s decision was a phone call from a family member of Danielsson who opposed the statue. “A close relative has called us and has said he does not want Danielsson to be remembered that way,” Johansson said.
Since the council began deliberating on the sculpture earlier last month, people from around the world have begun to hang handbags from statues to show their opposition to the local committee’s decision.
Sweden's public art handbag protest http://t.co/ecxcnkcK4i pic.twitter.com/6JZfrlmSDl
— Charl Blignaut (@sa_poptart) February 20, 2015
Heliga Birgitta har satt ner foten å tagit fram #handväskan !! #tantenmedhandväskan #tantentillvaexjoe #vaesktanten pic.twitter.com/lLIpKUA4Sj
— Anneli Vitterskog (@Vitterskog) February 21, 2015
Heidi Kabel, german queen of "Volkstheater", Hamburg, Germany. #växjö #tantenmedhandvaeskan #tantentillvaexjoe pic.twitter.com/IwYuSZ8EVT
— Film Maniax (@FilmManiax) February 26, 2015
Others have questioned why a woman holding a purse glorifies violence more than the statues of men holding swords that already exist in most cities.
"Jag kan inte stå för att han möter en oliktänkande med ett tillhygge. Han hade kunnat slåss med ord istället" pic.twitter.com/5sNZXWcUEW
— Hanna Höie (@HieHanna) February 17, 2015
Radio Sweden also reported that other cities in Sweden have since contacted Arwin, offering to take the proposed statue.
Nils Karlsson, a representative of Malmö, a city in southern Sweden that is known for its high rates of anti-Semitism, even offered to take the statue. Karlsson told German radio, “Although this memorial should belong to Växjö because the incident occurred there, we would take it if they don’t want it.”