Jan. 6, 2021 started out as a relatively normal day for many of us (a particularly good day, even!). Maybe you had the news on in the background as Congress began certifying the Electoral College votes from the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Obviously, though, the day took a turn as a mob of Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol building, causing chaos.
In the days following the violent event, there have been reports that some of the members of the mob were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “6MWE.” Naturally, people have wondered what the alphanumeric phrase means. As you can probably guess by the people who are typically seen wearing it, it’s not good. (Note: This article includes anti-Semitic imagery which some readers may find disturbing.)
What does “6MWE” mean?
In short, “6MWE” stands for “6 Million Wasn’t Enough” — a glaringly anti-Semitic and hateful message that refers to the 6 million Jewish people who were murdered during the Holocaust (and implies that the number should be higher). The slogan has become particularly popular among the Proud Boys, a hate group (as classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center) with members who are often involved in violent events such as the ones that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Often, T-shirts that feature the phrase “6MWE” also include an illustration of an eagle, which also has ties to anti-Semitism and fascism. The eagle logo comes from the coat of arms used by the Italian Social Republic, the short-lived Italian Fascist state led by Benito Mussolini that functioned as a Nazi puppet state during World War II.
The “6MWE” T-shirts seen at the Capitol on Jan. 6 (and at other pro-Trump events) are overt symbols of anti-Semitism. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that they’re not the only ones members of the violent mob were reportedly wearing that day.
What does “Camp Auschwitz” mean?
There are also reports of some of the pro-Trump protestors wearing sweatshirts that said “Camp Auschwitz” on the front and the word “STAFF” on the back. The sweatshirt also features a skull and crossbones and the words “work brings freedom.”
It’s not as though “6MWE” is a wholly inscrutable secret code, but anyone wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweater is not making any attempt to camouflage their anti-Semitism. The sweater is an overt reference to the death camps in Nazi Germany-occupied Poland. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (German for “work brings freedom”) was placed at the entrances of several Nazi concentration camps. There is no room for interpretation or nuance: The “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirts are symbols of anti-Semitism.
While many in the U.S. and throughout the world are reeling from the violent events that took place at the Capitol (and, indeed, which have taken place throughout U.S. history) it’s easy for a lot of the smaller details to be swept aside or not fully understood. While it’s undoubtedly an ugly side of the history we’re currently living through, it’s also important that we all understand the meaning behind these hateful symbols and call them out for what they are.