The White Shepherd is a purebred dog that has a fairly short but very sad history — ironically due to Hitler, the demands for "racial purity" and, most surprisingly, the dog's all-white coat. Prior to these problems — which lasted well after WWI and well into the 1990s — the White Shepherd was a breed well on its way to renown.
In the late 19th century, Max von Stephanitz, known as the father of the officially recognized German Shepherd, worked successfully to make sure the German Shepherd in all its colors was a successful breed; white ones were no less in stature than the dark-haired dogs. It was not until shortly after Hitler's appointment as Chancellor in 1932 that all that changed almost overnight: in 1933, white-coated German Shepherds were suddenly considered defective, albino and diseased. One year before Stephanitz's death in 1936, white German Shepherds had been outlawed. By the end of WWII (for Germany) in 1944, tens of thousands of them had been slaughtered and as a direct result, they were basically non-existent in Europe by mid-century. Any White Shepherds that survived were not documented, and that trend continued for some time after the war.
Despite the defeat of the Nazis and nearly everything they stood for, the incorrect belief that white German Shepherds were genetically inferior not only remained intact but was formally accepted by many of the countries that had defeated Germany. During the 1950s, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) convinced the American Kennel Club (AKC) to disqualify pure-white German Shepherds from dog shows; the club had ultimately hoped to persuade the AKC to renege the breed's registry altogether. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
It is believed that there were a few white German Shepherd dogs that survived WWII in Germany and Holland and which were direct descendants of white GSDs from the very early 20th century. They were not registered with the local clubs (thanks to the misconceptions that all but completely wiped out White Shepherds in the region), and there appears to be no easily available proof they survived or that their offspring continue. Despite the tragic history of the White Shepherd through the greater part of the 20th century, the breed survived primarily because of breeders in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The White Shepherd was not kept in the dark during those decades, however, and they not only survived but thrived thanks to the silver screen and traveling stage shows. (Although the White Shepherd was formally reviled in some Allied countries, there were many people and large groups who advocated for the dog.) Most will remember Rin Tin Tin (who went on to star in a popular TV show, "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," during the 1950s) and some may even recall Strongheart and his series of movies; they were but two Shepherds of a huge group that were seen by millions in the decade following WWI.
To chart the progress of the dog's popularity during the 1920s, consider the number of AKC-registered shepherd dogs in 1920 — just over 2,000 — and again in 1926 after they appeared in numerous popular movies and vaudeville acts: nearly 22,000. Although they were not all white, there were those (on-screen and off) that were white or carried the recessive gene that helped to ensure the White Shepherd's survival.
The popularity of the White Shepherd continues to grow but still faces significant resistance. A concerted effort to petition the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) prompted them to provisionally recognize the White Shepherd as a new breed named the White Swiss Shepherd. Efforts by countless clubs devoted to the White Shepherd continue to work for the dog's full recognition by the AKC, United Kennel Club (UKC) and other canine authorities.