World War One Sites - The NETWORLD Database
"Iron Soldier" (Wehrmann in Eisen), Vienna, Austria
The “Iron Soldier” was set up in March 1915 on Schwarzenbergplatz in the fourth Vienna city district for the purpose of collecting money for war widows and orphans. Donors were able to hammer nails into the figure – it was apparently around 500,000 nails with this statue. The figure was removed at the end of the war in 1918.
Type of WWI-heritage
- Non-Military Site of World War One Relevance
- War monument
The “Iron Soldier” has a height of approximately two metres.
State of repair/preservation
The “Iron Soldier” is in good condition.
Historical WWI Context
From spring of 1915, many towns and villages in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy set up wooden figures to be decorated with nails if a donation was given to the war welfare fund. In addition to soldiers, military signs and crosses, other objects were also used for nailing purposes, e.g. figures of historical personages, forges, holy figures and animals as well as tables and doors.
The number of nailing actions suddenly increased from April 1915 – they also fulfilled an important social function by appealing to the common call for holding out. As proof of their patriotic attitude, donors were given pins, certificates or other donor records according to the place and the amount donated.
The time between July 1915 and April/May 1916 was deemed to be the “zenith” of these nailing campaigns. According to a source of the time, around 700 iron soldier and iron sign campaigns were carried out in Austria up to June 1916.
The Vienna “Iron Soldier”, referencing an idea by Theodor Graf Hartig, was created in 1914 by Josef Müllner based on the “Iron Rod” and was set up on Schwarzenbergplatz in the fourth district. This statue was more or less the initial starting point for the war nailing campaigns.
In 1919 the “Iron Soldier” was removed from its location on Schwarzenbergplatz to be stored in a depot. The Iron Soldier was once again remembered when in 1934 the outer castle gate was to be converted to a heroes' memorial for the fallen of World War I. To finance this conversion the figure was once again setup on Schwarzenbergplatz. Now though the figure itself was not nailed but its base. This campaign was brought to an end with the inauguration of the heroes' memorial in September 1934. The soldier finally found its last location on 12 October 1934 in the arcades of the new administration building at the corner of Felderstraße/Ebendorferstraße.
State of legal protection
The “Iron Soldier” is not heritage-protected.
Vienna borough council takes care of upkeep and maintenance of the Iron Soldier.
Kind of cultural use of WWI
The “Iron Soldier” is accessible to the public. It is located in Vienna’s first district, Felderstraße 6–8, the arcades.
The “Iron Soldier” is accessible to the public. Further information: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM), Wien: www.hgm.at
Information regarding cities, villages, other touristic attractions (non-WWI) nearby
Further information sources
Gunda Achleitner (Hg.), Der Wehrmann in Eisen. Nägel für den guten Zweck / Nails for a good cause, Wien (2014).
Hans-Christian Pust, Vergessenes Phänomen. Kriegsnagelungen in Österreich, Deutschland und darüber hinaus, in: Christian Rapp & Peter Fritz (Red.), Jubel & Elend. Leben mit dem Großen Krieg 1914–1918. Ausstellungskatalog, hg. v. d. Schallaburg Kulturbetriebsges.m.b.H., Schallaburg (2014), S. 298–301.
Other heritage sites nearby
Museums Private Collections
Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM), Vienna
Further information: www.hgm.at
"Iron Soldier" (Wehrmann in Eisen), Vienna, Austria48.20886567069776 16.371216030804476 fileadmin/res/images/layout/standar-marker.png