The Nail Men of World War 1

On March 6, 1915, a large crowd gathered at Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna for the unveiling of a new monument—a wooden depiction of a medieval knight dubbed “Wehrmann in Eisen,” or the “Warrior in Iron.” Soon after its unveiling, Archduke Leopold Salvator of Austria proceeded to deface the monument by hammering a couple of iron nails into its body. Other dignitaries such as the German Ambassador Tschirschky-Bögendorff and the Turkish Ambassador Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha also joined in by driving nails into the effigy. As the curious spectacle unfolded, more nails were hammered in by onlookers. By the end of first week, an estimated 1,600 nails had been driven into the wooden monument.

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Wehrmann in Eisen. Photo credit: Thomas Ledl/Wikimedia Commons


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