Of all the disturbing images to emerge from Donald Trump’s tumultuous rally in Chicago, one of the most chilling pictures was a photo that evoked fears of extremism and echoes of one of history’s most tragic periods. As demonstrators looked on, an elderly woman decked out in Donald Trump regalia displayed the Nazi salute in what appeared to be a marriage of election cycle rhetoric and right-wing extremism. The photo made rounds in conventional media and social media in the hours that followed, leading many to the assumption that the woman depicted in the image was a white supremacist. On Saturday, she spoke with the New York Times in an effort to clear up the controversy.
As noted by CBS News, the woman in the photo is 69-year-old Brigitt Peterson. Peterson was born in West Berlin in 1946 and moved to the United States in the 1980s. She told the New York Times that her gesture was meant to protesters who had likened Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. She indicated she was taken aback when an anti-Trump protester displayed a sign featuring Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
— Chicago Trib Photo (@ChiTribPhoto) March 12, 2016
“I make the point that they are demonstrating something they had no knowledge about. If you want to do it right, you do it right. You don’t know what you are doing… Absolutely I’m not a Nazi, no.”
Peterson’s version of the incident is disputed by Michael Garza, who was standing next to the Brigitt Peterson in the aforementioned photograph. According to The Blaze, Garza indicated that the woman was not engaging with any of the protesters prior to the gesture and intended the display as a political statement.
The incident on Friday is not the only instance in which the actions of Donald Trump’s supporters have prompted comparisons to Nazi imagery. Trump has come under intense scrutiny for encouraging audiences to take a loyalty oath at rallies and the ensuing scenes of people directing raised right hands at their leader has led many to compare the scene to Nazi salutes from rallies during the era of fascist Germany.
On Sunday, a viral video captured a Trump supporter displaying the Nazi salute to protesters outside of a Donald Trump rally in Cleveland, Ohio. As reported by Inquisitr, the man also tells someone off camera to “go to Auschwitz,” referring to one of Nazi Germany’s most infamous death camps during the Holocaust. Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army in 1945. Soviet forces delivered the final blow to Nazi Germany on May 7, 1945, with the fall of Berlin.
Even Donald Trump himself has been accused of tacitly condoning fascism following his re-tweet of a quote by Hitler’s ally Benito Mussolini. Trump resisted calls to apologize, telling media that Mussolini’s statement, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep” is “a very good quote.”
For his part, Donald Trump has denied any elements of extremism within his base of support. As noted by the Washington Post, Trump was asked by Politico reporter Hope Hicks about the similarity between his “loyalty oath” and the Nazi salute, prompting the GOP frontrunner to dismiss the question as “a disgusting thing to ask.” Donald Trump has also been asked to rebuke endorsements by white supremacist groups and although he was initially reluctant to do so, the candidate eventually denounced David Duke and the support of hate groups.
[Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images]