Arnold Schwarzenegger has delivered a powerful 12-minute speech urging anti-Semites to abandon their hateful ideologies and “choose strength”.
On Monday, the former action movie star and former governor of California shared the impassioned speech via Facebook in a video produced by ATTN, a Los Angeles-based “issues-driven” media company.
“I don’t care how many hateful things you’ve written online. I don’t care how many times you’ve marched with that hateful flag or what hateful things you’ve said in anger. There is still hope for you,” he said in the video.
Schwarzenegger, California’s most recent Republican governor, began his speech by describing the horrors he encountered while touring the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He also referred to his father, who was a member of the Nazi party, and his upbringing in Austria after World War II.
“When you walk through a place like Auschwitz, you feel an enormous weight,” he said. “There are reminders everywhere of the horrors that happened there: the suitcases that were never claimed by the prisoners. . . The logs with thousands of names crossed out, as if a cruel accountant only measured death. The gas chambers with scratches in the walls from the fingernails of people trying to hold on to life. The crematorium where the Nazis tried to erase all their atrocities.”
Schwarzenegger said his remarks were not aimed at people who have been targeted by anti-Semitism, but rather he wanted to address people fueled by hatred, those who perpetrate anti-Semitism.
“I want to talk to you if you’ve heard conspiracy theories about Jewish people, or people of any race or gender or orientation, and thought, ‘That makes sense to me.’ I want to talk to you if you find yourself viewing someone as inferior and out to get you because of their religion, skin color or gender,” he added.
“I don’t know the road that brought you here, but I’ve seen enough people throw away their futures for hateful beliefs, so I want to talk to you before you regret at the end of that path.”
The ‘Terminator’ star discussed how she grew up surrounded by the men who lost World War II. He described the way “their bodies were riddled with wounds and shrapnel”. . . and that “their hearts and their minds were equally riddled with guilt.” He said he witnessed the men drinking to numb their pain and the way they felt like losers who not only lost the war but had fallen for “a terrible, loser ideology”.
At some point in Schwarzenegger’s address, the infamous photo of Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters Teddy Von Nukem and Peter Cvjetanovic was shown. The men became two of the most prominent faces of the 2017 far-right rally. Earlier this year, on the day he was due to appear in court for drug trafficking, Von Nukem died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Missouri.
“Throughout history, hate has always been the easy way, the way of least resistance. . . It’s easier to find a scapegoat for a problem than it is to try to make things better yourself…” Schwarzenegger said. “You will not find success at the end of that road… there has never been a successful movement based on hate.”
“I can understand how people can fall into the trap of prejudice and hatred. Whether you grew up surrounded by hate or are sucked into some of Big Tech’s algorithms that push you to your limits.”
“If you spend your life looking for scapegoats, you take away your own responsibility, you remove your own power, you steal your own power.”
According to the League against defamation, there was a 34% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 compared to the previous year. That was the highest number since the Anti-Defamation League began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979.
There is also a staggering increase in anti-Semitism on Twitter according to combatantisemitism.orgwho said Kanye “Ye” West’s anti-Semitic comments caused a 136% increase in toxic comments, threats and identity attacks against Jewish people on the social platform.
Late last year, in connection with West’s diatribe against Jewish people, a well-known hate group flocked to a busy 405 freeway overpass in Los Angeles. Protesters gave Nazi salutes and displayed a banner reading “Kanye is right about the Jews”.
In the weeks that followed, LA residents found flyers at their homes and on their cars promoting conspiracy theories about Jewish people.
And last month, 28-year-old Jaime Tran was charged with federal hate crimes after he shot two Jewish men as they were leaving religious services in Los Angeles. After his arrest, Tran admitted to police that he had searched for a kosher market on Yelp prior to the attacks and knew the men were Jewish because of their “headgear.”