'The Woman With the Handbag' – Varberg, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

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'The Woman With the Handbag'

Controversy surrounded the creation of this anti-fascist statue.  


At a 1985 parade in Växjö, Polish-born Danuta Danielsson was photographed hitting a neo-Nazi with her handbag. When the photo became public, Danielsson chose to remain anonymous. Because of this, a myth grew around the “woman with the handbag.” Though rumors swirled that she was an elderly Jewish concentration camp survivor, Danielsson was only 38 when the photo was taken. 

Danielsson’s identity came to light in 2014, when a debate started in Växjö over the possibility of commemorating the photo with a statue. Both the municipality and Danielsson’s son objected. Local government didn’t want to glorify violence, while the son said his mother regretted the photo. He didn’t want her to be remembered like this. 

These arguments fell on deaf ears. All around Sweden, people started putting handbags on statues to quietly demand that Danielsson be sculpted. This was enough to convince artist Susanna Arwin to make the statue, and for Swedish hotel entrepreneur Lasse Diding to buy it. 

Diding’s plan was to install The Woman With the Handbag at Varberg Fortress, which houses a museum. But the Varberg municipality voted not to display the statue. Diding decided to place the statue in the front yard of his villa, where it still stands today. A second statue of Danielsson in the same pose was unveiled at a public lawn in the city of Alingsås.

Know Before You Go

The statue is freely visible from the street, but please do not go past the gate. 

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August 24, 2022

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