On the 13th of April in 1985, a legendary photo was snapped in the small town of Vaxjo in Sweden. This was the photo of a 38-year-old woman who uses her purse to whack a neo-Nazi on the head with her purse while he was marching to support a party called the Nordic Realm Party. The photograph was taken by Hans Runesson, and it went on to become one of his most famous photos. Sure Runesson likes to say that he was simply in the right place at the right time, but Hans Runesson has always been known for having an eye for taking photos of memorable moments in time.
The woman was named Danuta Danielsson and she was originally from Poland, born in 1947. When Danuta saw the neo-Nazi walking it is easy to understand how this frustrated and enraged her. Her mother had been imprisoned during the war in a German concentration camp, it was the camp of Majdanek. This was a terrible camp to end up, built by the SS it was originally built to be a forced labor camp but it was swiftly repurposed as an extermination camp. The camp killed people on an industrial scale and is estimated to have killed 79,000 people during its 34 months of operation. The evidence and infrastructure are all intact because the Soviet Union Red Army Advanced so swiftly to liberate the area that the Nazi forces were unable to destroy the camp in time.
We do not know what happened to Danuta’s mother but we can only assume it was the worse. The photograph is iconic for many reasons, being voted as the Swedish Picture of the Year in 1985 and later was chosen as the Picture of the Century by the magazine Vi. Unfortunately, Danuta died a couple of years after the photo was published by suicide, as she jumped to her death from a water bed. It is unclear if her suicide has to do with the unforgettable trauma of growing up during a time of Nazi occupation in Poland, though it could have been a factor.
In the photo we see Danuta hitting a militant by the name of Seppo Seluska with her handbag. It was later a moment turned into a statue, though the statue is not located in Vaxjo as the local council thought it is still a statue that can be interpreted as promoting violence – even if most of society would justify her actions. Seluska was later arrested and found guilty of the torture and murder of a local Jewish person.