Arnold Schwarzenegger was honored Monday with the inaugural Award of Courage at the Holocaust Museum LA’s annual gala for his long-standing fight against anti-Semitism and bigotry.
The event, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, was particularly timely given the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, and included 27 Holocaust survivors as the evening’s guests. Holocaust Museum LA, celebrating its 15th annual gala, is the oldest Holocaust museum in the US, and Chairman Guy Lipa kicked off the event by saying, “our community has been devastated by the atrocities committed by Hamas. We are angry and afraid as we see violent anti-Semitism in our backyard and around the world, but I am encouraged to see our community come together tonight.”
Schwarzenegger received his award from producer Mike Medavoy, who, according to the star, launched his acting career after becoming a successful bodybuilder. Looking back on his life, Schwarzenegger said he dreamed of becoming the most muscular man in the world, and also of coming to America and becoming rich and famous. But as a born Austrian and the son of a Nazi, he also wanted to fight “for inclusion against hate and speaking out about hate, and how wrong it is not to look at everyone’s lives equally. And to attack each other because of someone’s religion and religious background, or because of the color of their skin or their gender, whatever that is.”
The star continued: ‘I thought it was very important, especially because I come from a country that is known to have been a big part of the Second World War and that had the most brutal Nazis during the Second World War and before. I thought it was important to go out and let people know that the next generation doesn’t have to be the same, that the next generation can change.”
He recalled encountering anti-Semitism in his own home when he bought a bodybuilding magazine as a teenager, and his father disparaged it when he learned the magazine’s publisher was Jewish. Years later, after Schwarzenegger Mr. Universe had won and had been invited to America – and had been set up with housing and money in the United States – he called his father to tell him that it was the same publisher who had made all this happen.
“From that moment on, I said to myself, ‘I have to fight that, I have to speak out about hate, I have to get involved in this issue,’” he said. “And the more I became a celebrity, the more I became a movie star and a bodybuilding star and all that, the more I felt like, ‘Oh, I still have a power,’” because I was a public voice against anti-Semitism.
He has since visited the former Nazi camp Auschwitz and said he plans to return with “a whole bunch of Hollywood celebrities so they can see what’s going on, what happened there and to draw attention to this issue to bring.”
Schwarzenegger added that right now there is “all this talk and all this stuff and all this negativity and hate that we have to speak out and confront. The more we speak out on this subject, the better it will be. So every day you have to talk about that, you have to talk about it over and over again, because we can’t let them get away with these lies and with this hatred. You have to talk to them, bring them down and let them know that the only way to move on is through love… hate that you will never overcome; love always wins in the end.”