February 28, 2020 / 11:19 AM / a month ago

False claim: female Democrats wore white at SOTU to mirror clothing of Nazi women's group

Hundreds of Facebook users have shared an image on Facebook here that is said to show “The League of Nazi Socialist women who supported Hitler’s dream of a socialist paradise. They always went to public events dressed in white”.

Several users have remarked on the similarity between this attire and that adopted by female Democrats wearing white at the State of the Union speech on February 4, 2020, such as this post: here

Some posts, such as this one here make the connection more explicit, claiming that the two groups are the “same”.

This is not correct. The unsupported claim featured on the archive photograph regarding the subjects’ support for a “Hitler’s dream of a socialist paradise” is not linked to the female Democrats’ choice to wear white to the State of the Union speech, which was in honour of women’s economic rights and for the women’s suffrage movement.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified on August 18, 1920 enshrining women’s right to vote. 

Early suffragette Glenda Tinnin once said (here): “An idea that is driven home to the mind through the eye, produces a more striking and lasting impression than any that goes through the ear.” From early days, suffragettes had became aware of how visuals could affect perceptions of them and began use the color white as a part of their publicity.

“Becoming aware of the way visuals could shift public opinion, suffragists began to incorporate media and publicity tactics into their campaign, using all kinds of spectacles to popularize their cause. Color played a crucial role in these efforts, especially during public demonstrations such as pageants and parades” writes Einav Rabinovitch-Fox in The Conversation article linked to above. “Suffragists deployed white to convey these messages, but they also turned to a much more diverse palette… These American suffrage colors – purple, white and yellow – stood for loyalty, purity and hope, respectively. And while all three of them were used during parades, it was the brightness of the white that left the biggest impression.” White is therefore a historically significant color for the suffrage and women’s equality movements.

2020 marked the fourth year (see here) that congresswomen have color coordinated for the State of the Union (seen here in 2019 wearing white, in 2018 wearing black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement, see here and in 2017 wearing white again, see here). 

Among the congresswomen that tweeted about why they were wearing white to the SOTU were Alma Adams (here), Robin Kelly (here), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (here),  Sharice Davids (here) as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (here). Congresswomen wore white in the past as well as this year as a reference not only to recognize past women’s rights, but also as a reminder to the current administration that they take a strong stand against perceived injustice toward women (here).

Congresswoman Susie Lee tweeted here: “Rockin our all-white outfits at #SOTU for two reasons: [One] Honoring the 20th Century Suffragettes who coined the all white look. [Two] Reminding you that you can’t ignore the force that is women in Congress.”

Returning to the archive photograph, there is no evidence that the group named on the image (the “League of Nazi Socialist women”) even existed. A group called National Socialist Women's League (Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft) did exist and it was founded in 1931. However, Reuters could not find evidence that they always went to public events dressed in white, and indeed archive pictures show members of this group dressed in other colours – see here .

There was also a group called League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth (Bund Deutscher Mädel or BDM) founded in 1926. The uniform for the League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth (Bund Deutscher Mädel or BDM, see more here) worn to public meetings was made up of dark blue skirts, brown jackets, white shirts and black neckerchiefs (see here).

It is unclear which group the women and young girls in the picture belong to. Reuters was able to find other angles appearing to show the same women and girls in this photograph taken, which can be seen here This photograph shows the parade from higher up. The school age girls’ dresses appear to match with the photo in the original claim, and both the older women seen in the original claim photograph are also recognizable near the front, by their clothes, shoes and accessories.

This photograph is from the photograph archives (www.sz-photo.de/) of the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (www.sueddeutsche.de/). They have captioned it:

“View of the parade through the Old Town of Coburg decorated on the occasion of obtaining of the federal banner as part of the celebrations marking the​ 75th anniversary of the German Gymnastics Association Coburg that was founded in 1860. Besides the swastika flags hangs a flag with the emblem of the​ German Gymnastics Association. In the background you can see the hospital tower and a commercial building of Gustav Dehler (sign).”

The current logo (seen www.dtb.de/?www.) of the German Gymnastics Association looks similar to the symbol on the flags in this photograph.

The same photograph that appears in the original claim also appears here on an archival website. Below it (around 2/3 scrolling down on the page above) there is another photograph of this group of women and girls from a different angle. The caption for the same photograph is:

“A group of young girls parade in the Coburg Hauptplatz (market square), giving the “Hitler-Gruß” salute and singing the “Horst-Wessel-Lied,” the unofficial anthem of the Nazi Party. The occasion was the 75th anniversary of the German gymnastics association in Coburg, 1936. The modern views show a slightly wider angle to show more of the surrounding architecture, including the statue of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, who married Queen Victoria of Great Britain (seen in the modern view below).  (National Archives, RG 208)  (MapQuest Map Link)”

It is therefore very likely this photograph shows women and girls saluting during a parade for the 75th anniversary of the German Gymnastics Association in Coburg in 1936. While this gives an indication of the event and date, it still does not confirm if the women and girls were part of a specific group. While this photo was taken during the Third Reich, Reuters was unable to independently confirm if these specific girls and women were part of an official Nazi women’s group.

VERDICT

False: female Democrats did not wear white to the State of the Union address in 2020 to show support for “a socialist paradise”.

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