Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the top of his game as a Hollywood blockbuster actor in July 1990, when rumors started surfacing about his father’s possible ties to the Nazi party.
The Austria-born bodybuilder-turned actor (and later, the governor of California) decided he wanted to know more about his father’s past.
Schwarzenegger asked his friends at the Jewish human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to start an investigation.
“‘I don’t know much about my father’s past,’” Schwarzenegger told Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center, according to The Los Angeles Times. “‘I don’t know if it’s good or bad, and I’d like you to find out.’”
Named after the famed Nazi hunter, the organization learned that Schwarzenegger father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, was indeed a member of the Nazi party.
While Gustav voluntarily applied for Nazi party membership in 1938, there is no evidence that he was a war criminal, according to the Wiesenthal Center.
But a later investigation done by The LA Times found that Gustav Schwarzenegger was much more deeply involved in Hitler’s regime than previously believed.
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A document that had become available after the Wiesenthal Center’s initial investigation proved that Gustav was a member of the Sturmabteilung, also known as the “storm troopers” or “brownshirts.” The Nazi Party’s original paramilitary wing, it played a significant role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s.
Although Arnold Schwarzenegger was the one who initiated the investigation into his father’s Nazi past, the connection did hound him in his career, particularly after Schwarzenegger befriended Kurt Waldheim, the former president of Austria and former secretary-general of the United Nations. Waldheim was accused of having hidden his own involvement in Nazi atrocities committed during World War II, The Times reported.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican who went on to serve as governor of California from 2003 to 2011, even invited Waldheim to his 1986 wedding to Maria Shriver, then the anchorwoman of “CBS Morning News” and a niece of President John Kennedy.
Now Schwarzenegger is speaking out against his fellow Republicans and the president over the Capitol siege — and he used Nazi references. The former governor compared the riot at the Capitol by a mob supporting Trump to Kristallnacht, the Nov. 9, 1938, Nazi riot that left thousands of Jewish buildings destroyed. Some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested after Kristallnacht in what historians regard as the prelude to the Holocaust, The Times of Israel reported.
Schwarzenegger, 73, likened the insurrection at the Capitol building to the rise of Nazi Germany and referenced the impact of World War II on his father’s conscience and behavior. Gustav Schwarzenegger was a local police chief before joining the Nazi party.
In a video posted to Twitter on Dec. 10, Schwarzenegger described Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” and the 1938 Nazi riot across Germany and Austria. He called the stormtroopers who carried out the attacks on Jews and Jewish sites “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys,” the far-right group that supports Trump.
“The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol — but the mob did not just shatter glass, they shattered the ideals we took for granted,” Schwarzenegger said in the video. “They did not just break down the doors of the building that houses American democracy, they trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.”
Many of those who attacked the Capitol “bore anti-Semitic and racist symbology,” The Times of Israel reported.
In the video, Schwarzenegger recalled his childhood in Austria. “I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy… I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history. Not all of them were rabid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many just went along step-by-step down the road…
“Now, I’ve never shared this so publicly because it is a painful memory, but my father would come home drunk once or twice a week, and he would scream and hit us and scare my mother,” Schwarzenegger went on. “I did not hold him totally responsible because our neighbor was doing the same to his family, and so was the next neighbor over.”
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He added, “They were in physical pain from the shrapnel in their bodies, and in emotional pain from what they saw or did. It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance. So being from Europe, I’ve seen firsthand how things can spin out of control…”
Schwarzenegger then called out Trump. He said, “President Trump sought to overturn the results of an election, and of a free election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies. I know where such lies lead. President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever.”
Schwarzenegger said his fellow Republicans should disavow Trump, and support Biden. “We need public servants who will serve higher ideals,” he said.