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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 5, 2020

Photo shows Angela Merkel, but not other leaders

If Your Time is short

  • This photo shows Angela Merkel as a teenager but not two other world leaders. 

A photo of a cozy trio is being shared on social media, and characterized as a snapshot of three world leaders as teenagers: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Theresa May, the former British prime minister, and Dalia Grybauskaitė, the former president of Lithuania. 

"All 3 were friends as teens, and now leaders of their countries?" the post says. "No such thing as a coincidence."

But there is such a thing as a mistaken identity. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

The woman on the left in the photo is Angela Merkel when she was 18 years old. The other people in the image published by Time in 2015 are only identified as "friends at a New Year’s Eve party in Berlin in 1972."

We reached out to Merkel, May and Grybauskaitė about the Facebook post but did not receive replies.

However, we couldn’t find any corroborating evidence that the former British prime minister and the former president of Lithuania were photographed with her. 

Rather, the available evidence points away from the Facebook post’s claim. It’s extremely unlikely that two public figures like May and Grybauskaitė would not also be identified in the photo alongside Merkel if, in fact, they were in the photo alongside Merkel. 

Featured Fact-check

We didn’t find any photos of Grybauskaitė as a teenager but photos of May around the time this photo was taken do not resemble the person pictured next to Merkel.

The three women also did not attend the same schools or universities.

Merkel attended high school in Templin, Germany, and then enrolled at what’s now known as the University of Leipzig in Germany.

May was born in October 1956 and would have been 16 at the time the photo was taken. According to the BBC, she was mainly educated at Wheatley Park Comprehensive School in England before going to Oxford University. 

Grybauskaitė was born in March 1956 and would have also been 16 at the time the photo was taken. She attended Vilnius Salomeja Neris Secondary School in Lithuania before studying at what was then known as Leningrad University in Russia.

We lastly emailed Stefan Kornelius, who wrote "Angela Merkel: The Chancellor and Her World," an authorized biography about the leader. Did the photo show May and Grybauskaitė?   

"Come on," he said. "This is nuts." 

We rate this Facebook post False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Aug. 3, 2020

Time, See vintage photos of a young Angela Merkel, Dec. 9, 2015

The Times, St Theresa’s sermon in great meritocracy, Sep. 10, 2016

Daily Mail, The vicar’s daughter who met her husband at a Conservative disco: Deadly serious…, June 30, 2016

Britannica, Dalia Grybauskaite, visited Aug. 4, 2020

Britannica, Angela Merkel, visited Aug. 4, 2020

Britannica, Theresa May, visited Aug. 4, 2020

President of the Republic of Lithuania, Biography, visited Aug. 4, 2020

BBC, Who is Theresa May: A profile of UK’s new prime minister, July 25, 2016

Email with Stefan Kornelius, author of "Angela Merkel: The Chancellor and Her World," Aug. 5, 2020

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Photo shows Angela Merkel, but not other leaders

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