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Järnpojke, Iron boy, sits on a small iron table covered with coins from many nations, candy, flowers, and other gifts to bring luck.

The Iron Boy Järnpojke: Stockholm’s Smallest Monument

Järnpojke, aka “Iron Boy,” is so small you might miss him. In fact, he’s the smallest monument in all of Sweden. But going in search of him is worth the trip when you’re in Stockholm. And don’t forget to make a wish!

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There’s someone in Stockholm I want you to meet. He is very small, a little boy. He likes to dress up in hand-knitted scarves and hats in the cold Stockholm winters and sun hats on hot summer days. He enjoys receiving presents and having his head patted. And he loves looking at the moon.

Järnpojke, Iron boy, sits on a small iron table covered with coins from many nations, candy, flowers, and other gifts to bring luck.

Meet Järnpojke, aka Iron Boy or The Boy Who Looks at the Moon. At less than 6″ high, he is Stockholm’s smallest monument.

His name is Järnpojke, which translates as “Iron Boy,” because that’s what he’s made of. He’s easy to miss because he’s less than 6 inches/15 cm high. He sits on an iron bench, his legs pulled up and his arms wrapped around his knees, with his face turned toward the sky. That’s why he is also called “The Boy Who Looks at the Moon.” A visit to see him is one of the nicest things to do in Gamla Stan, the city’s Old Town, the most charming and delightful part of Stockholm.

A Stockholm Secret Attraction Tucked Into a Small Garden

As with Copenhagen’s underwater statue of Agnete and the Merman I posted about earlier, most Stockholm guidebooks don’t mention The Iron Boy. Finding him is a bit of a trick, which is why he’s sometimes called a “secret attraction.” His perch sits at one end of a tiny courtyard garden behind the Finnish Church, just a few yards from Stockholm Palace.

I don’t think I ever would have stumbled on Järnpojke by myself. I was led there by our guide on an Old Town Walkabout: Guided Tour of Gamla Stan I found through Get Your Guide. The perfect introduction to Stockholm’s Old Town, it showed me things I never would have found on my own. It also gave me a grounding for wandering about solo later on. That’s why I always search out a walking tour when I get to a new city, and this Gamla Stan walking tour was a good one.

The Iron Boy was first created in 1954 by local artist Liss Eriksson. He was positioned on his little table and placed in the courtyard in 1967. Supposedly, Eriksson had a studio overlooking that courtyard at the time and got tired of how boring his view was. He decided to dress up the space with a piece of art. Also, it’s said that Eriksson, who died in 2000, suffered his whole life from insomnia and spent a lot of time staring at the moon hanging in the night-dark sky. So perhaps “The Boy Who Looks at the Moon” is a bit of a self-portrait.

Järnpojke wrapped in a dark, hand-knit cap and scarf against the Swedish chill.

Local people often dress Järnpojke up, especially in the Swedish winters when he’s often seen in hand-knitted hats and scarves.

One of the most charming things about Järnpojke is how much this little Iron Boy is loved and cared for by the local people. During the long and cold Swedish winters, he’s often wrapped in tiny hand-knit woolen scarves and a warm knitted cap. In summer, it’s not unusual to find him wearing Barbie-sized sunglasses. On rainy days, he may be protected by a tiny umbrella or wrapped in a plastic poncho to keep him snug. Apparently, he has quite the wardrobe. Very often, flowers, candy, even cheese, fruit, or other snacks and random gifts decorate his table as offerings. The day I was there, someone had left him a lady’s watch and some cookies.

Always there are coins from many nations. People leave coins as both a thank you and a plea. For the Iron Boy is said to have magical powers that bring good luck. If you pat his little head three times and make a wish, it’s sure to come true within a year. Others say if you pat him, you will return to Stockholm. His forehead gleams from decades of people seeking his blessing. The Finnish church collects the coins surrounding the boy and adds them to a fund to help needy kids in Finland.

How to Find Järnpojke, the Iron Boy

A Gamla Stan Walking Tour will show you this and many other charms in Stockholm’s Old Town, and I highly recommend booking one. However, if you prefer to venture out to search for Iron Boy on your own, begin at the obelisk in front of the Royal Palace. With your back to the palace, look forward and a bit to your left to the narrow street called Bollhusstäppen and the yellow-orange building of the Finnish Church, the Finska Kyrkan. To the right of the church, walk a few yards/meters up that narrow street to the courtyard in the back of the church on your left. Iron Boy is at the far end of the garden courtyard. You can click on this link to Google Maps to find the exact spot.

A tourist rubs Järnpojke's head for good luck.

Järnpojke’s iron head has been worn shiny smooth by decades of beseeching hands patting him for good luck.


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Four brass-topped solpersteine are engraved with the names, birthdates and date and place of death of four members of the Wertheimer family in Heidelberg.

Stolpersteine: Stumbling Across Reminders of the Holocaust

Stolpersteine are small, only noticed if you happen to be looking down. But these “stumbling stones” hold large pieces of the individual and collective memories of those the world lost to the Nazi Holocaust.

Photo of The Week: Stolpersteine

There are many monuments great and small to the millions of Europeans lost to the Nazi Holocaust. There is Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., the gray abstract pillars of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin and dozens more.

In Heidelberg, I “stumbled across” another memorial to the murdered millions. It is both very small and enormous. It is 10 cm (4”) square and it ranges over thousands of kilometers in diverse towns and cities in some 23 European countries.

Four brass-topped stolpersteine are engraved with the names, birthdates and date and place of death of four members of the Wertheimer family in Heidelberg.

Four small brass-topped solpersteine commemorate the last freely chosen residence of four members of the Wertheimer family near the Old Town Square in Heidelberg, Germany. Three of them died. One escaped.

This monument is called, collectively, solpersteine in German. That translates as stumbling stones because you can easily “stumble across” a part of this monument unaware. Thousands of the cobblestone-sized blocks have been laid. They memorialize the Jews, Roma, homosexuals, communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Resistance fighters, black people, the mentally ill and physically disabled and others who were all victims of the Nazi’s rabid “purification” campaign during World War II.

The stones I found near the Old Town main square in Heidelberg mark the last family residence of the Wertheimer family. Julius was apparently the head of the family, father to two sons. He was 56 when he was first taken into “protection” at Dachau. Two years later he was deported from there and killed. Klara, his wife, was 59 when she was deported and died shortly afterward. Fritz was just 16 when he was taken away. The last two lines on his stone read 1940 Auschwitz. Murdered. His older brother, Karl, was the “lucky” survivor. In 1937, at age 22, he fled to Colombia.

How the Stolpersteine Came to Be

The concept of the stolpersteine began in Berlin in 1992 when German artist Gunther Demnig had an idea. December 16the of that year was the 50th anniversary of Heinrich Himmler’s 1942 order to deport the Sinti and Roma “gypsies” in Germany to concentration camps. Demnig thought the date should be commemorated. He engraved the first sentence of that infamous decree onto a stone and laid it in front of the town hall in Cologne. From there, the idea blossomed into what he calls a “decentralized monument.” It would become the largest in the world.

He began making small concrete blocks topped with inscribed brass plaques. One person, one block. He then set them into the pavement in front of the last place where those people had freely chosen to live before falling victim to the Nazi terror. Whether it was deportation to an extermination camp, death by exhaustion, hunger or disease in a labor camp, euthanasia, suicide, or a more fortunate escape abroad that caused them to leave their homes, the stumbling stones now mark where they were a part of daily life before the horror.

Personalizing the Holocaust, Bringing the Victims Home

Six million dead—or eight million or twelve million—is a number impossible to comprehend. But a group of small brass squares in the sidewalk, each marked with “Here lived…” followed by a name, a date of birth, the time of leaving, a date and place of death… that is something personal, comprehensible. That is something that allows you to feel the true tragedy of one plus one plus one, and on and on to seeming infinity.

The stolpersteine represent a kind of “coming home” for these disappeared people. Set flush with the other paving stones, they become an intrinsic part of the neighborhood, just as those they commemorate once were. They remind us that these people walked here. They rode their bikes here, walked their dogs, took out the trash and brought in the shopping. They laughed and cried, courted, gossiped with neighbors, perhaps danced in the street on festive occasions, all right here, over this pavement, where the stones still remember them.

By 2017, stolpersteine have been placed in more than 1400 cities, neighborhoods and towns in 23 European countries.

Who Places the Stones?

The stones are ordered by relatives of the victims, by concerned individuals, often by residents of the buildings where these people once lived. Students, historical researchers and others all help come up with the names and other information and the correct locations for the stones.

The entire solpersteine program is a private initiative, although Demnig does require that all local state and city permissions are received before he begins to create new stones. To have a solperstein created and placed costs 120€, and there is a waiting list of many months. That’s because each stumble stone is created and laid by hand. Michael Friedrichs-Friedlander makes the stones and embosses the brass plate. He can make about 450 per month. Demnig then travels across Europe and lays them.

Since pedestrians generally step around them, the brass plates tend to oxidize instead of being regularly “polished” by shoe soles, as Demnig intended. They can turn brown or even black and unreadable, so residents often keep them cleaned and polished.

One observation the artist has made is this:

“One of the most beautiful pictures, I find, is this aspect that, when you want to read, you have to bow, before the victim.”

For more information about the stolperstein project and Gunther Demnig, visit the Stolpersteine website here.

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