Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an emotional speech Sunday comparing the MAGA riot and Donald Trump‘s attempted ‘coup’ to the Nazi takeover of his native Austria.
The former California governor, 73, called the murderous riot in the Capitol ‘America’s Day of Broken Glass,’ comparing to Kirstallnacht, the night of mass attacks on Jews in Austria and Germany which presaged the Holocaust.
And he condemned Trump as ‘the worst president’ saying that his elected enablers must be ‘held accountable’ as he issued a call for unity behind President-elect Joe Biden.
Although the former actor has made no secret of his childhood with an abusive father who joined the Nazi party either just before or just after the German takeover of Austria in 1938, he has rarely spoken so emotionally about its impact.
Shattered glass: The former California governor said the MAGA mob was a coup attempt by Trump which ‘shattered the ideas we took for granted’ but which had no succeeded
Comparison: The former actor said American democracy, like a sword, was improved by being tempered in ‘wars, injustices and insurrections’ and could emerge stronger from the trials of recent days
He told how his father and the other men of his childhood were shattered mentally by the guilt of ‘what they saw and did.’
Gustuv Schwarzenegger was wounded in combat on the Eastern Front in 1942 having served in a Panzer group as a military policeman in Poland, France, Belgium, Ukraine, Lithuania and finally modern-day Russia.
‘Now, I’ve never shared this so publicly because it is a painful memory but my father would come drunk once or twice a week and he would scream and hit us, and scare my mother,’ Schwarzenegger said.
‘I didn’t hold him totally responsible because our neighbor was doing the same thing to his family, and so was the next neighbor over. I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes.
‘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 first hand how things can spin out of control.’
Comparing 1930s Austria to modern America he said: ‘President Trump sought to overturn the results of an election and of a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies.
‘My father and our neighbors were misled also with lies. I know where such lies lead.’
Nazi past: Gustav Schwarzenegger was a policeman in Austria who joined the Nazis and was wounded on the eastern front. His son described him drunkenly beating his children, like the neighboring fathers, because of the guilt ‘of what they saw and did.’ His mother Aurelia had two children – Meinhard, and Arnold – with Gustav; her first husband had died in action
Eleven year old Arnold Schwarzenegger poses for a photo in art class in 1958 in Thal, Austria
Infamy: Kristallnacht, on November 9, saw Jewish business’ windows shattered, giving it its name – but that was only the start of far worse Nazi violence. An orgy of destruction left at least 91 dead, 30,000 Jewish men arrested and Hitler’s intent graphically demonstrated to the world
A night of shame: In the violence of Kristallnacht, mobs of SA paramilitaries and Hitler Youth burned almost 300 synagogues, and desecrated cemeteries
KRISTALLNACHT: THE PRELUDE TO THE HOLOCAUST
Although the Nazis began persecuting Jews as soon as they gained power, Hitler’s true capacity for unadulterated violence was demonstrated to the world on November 9, 1938.
The pretext was the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Polish Jew.
The SA, his private paramilitary force, started by smashing Jewish shops’ and synagogues’ windows – hence the name – then moved on to mob violence, killing at least 91, beating untold numbers and running free as police stood by or helped.
The Nazis were not arrested: the Jews were, with 30,000 sent to concentration camps; 267 synagogues were destroyed, thousands of businesses looted and seized, and the community ‘fined’ a sum equivalent to around $7 billion in current values. German, Austrian and Sudetenland Jews’ persecution shocked the world and the stage was set for the Holocaust.
Schwarzenegger said that while Trump’s ‘attempted coup’ failed, those who ‘enabled his lies and treachery’ must be held to account.
Although he named no names, 147 Republican lawmakers – 139 House members and eight senators, led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – voted to overturn the election results, which the former California governor called ‘a fair election.’
‘They’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self-righteous insurrection into the Capitol,’ he said.
And he compared American’s democracy to the sword he used in the Conan the Barbarian movies, brandishing it as he said: ‘The more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes.
‘Our democracy has been tempered by wars, injustices and insurrections.
‘I believe, as shaken as we are about the events of recent days, we will come out stronger because we now understand what can be lost.’
He ended the more than seven-minute address from his home in Los Angeles, delivered in front of the United States and California flags, by appealing for uniting behind Biden.
‘I ask you to join me in saying to President-elect Biden: “President-elect Biden, we wish you great success as our president. If you succeed our nation succeed. We support you with all our hearts as you seek to bring us together,”‘ he said.
‘And to those who think they can overturn the United States Constitution, know this: You will never win.
‘President-elect Biden, we stand with you today, tomorrow and forever in defense of our democracy from those who would threaten it.’
Schwarzenegger has made clear his views on Trump from the moment the president sought elected office.
The former California governor wrote on Monday in The Economist that Trump’s attempt to overthrow the election was ‘stupid, crazy and evil,’ and compared Wednesday’s vote to confirm the results to his movie Judgment Day.
‘For those in my party considering standing up against the voters on January 6th, know this: our grandchildren will know your names only as the villains who fought against the great American experiment and the will of the voters. You will live in infamy,’ he wrote.
After serving as California governor, he has campaigned on climate change and against gerrymandering, and last autumn offered to pay to re-open polling places being closed, to ensure people could vote.
He has previously said that he and Trump were friends but he declined campaign cash when he ran for governor in 2003 because it came from casinos, and told Trump in 2016 that he could not endorse him because of his denial of climate change.
Schwarzenegger has not said who he voted for in 2020, but has said that in 2016 he wrote in Ohio governor John Kasich.
He also told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt – himself a Trump loyalist – that he would happily serve in a Biden administration if he was asked.
Schwarzenegger has spoken previously of his childhood with a distant and abusive father, and of his father’s wartime activity.
His father had been a soldier in the Austrian army from 1930 to 1937, then a police officer, and rejoined the military as the equivalent of a military policeman in November 1939.
Schwarzenegger grew up knowing that his father had been wounded in action on the Eastern Front – he was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery in combat – but in 1990 it emerged that he had been an active member of the Nazi party.
At the time the actor commissioned the Simon Wiesenthal Center to investigate what his father had done and made the findings public.
His father had joined the Nazis, sometime either shortly before or shortly after the Nazi takeover of Austria in the Anschluss, and joined the paramilitary SA in early 1939.
The older Schwarzenegger held the equivalent rank to master sergeant in a military police unit attached to a tank group and was wounded in August 1942, and eventually discharged in 1944 having also suffered from malaria.
The Wiesenthal investigation did not find evidence which linked him to atrocities during his military service, or as a police officer. He died of a stroke aged 65 in 1972.
I KNOW WHERE LIES LEAD: READ ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER’S FULL SPEECH
As an immigrant to this country I would like to say a few words to my fellow Americans, and to our friends around the world, about the events of recent days.
I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kirstallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.
Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the united States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol: they shattered the ideas we took for granted.
They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy, they trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.
I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy.
I was born in 1947 two years after the Second World War. Growing up, 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. They were the people next door.
Now, I’ve never shared this so publicly because it is a painful memory but my father would come drunk once or twice a week and he would scream and hit us, and scare my mother.
I didn’t hold him totally responsible because our neighbor was doing the same thing to his family, and so was the next neighbor over. I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes.
Famous sword: The Conan the Barbarian star wielded the sword from the movies as he compared American democracy to the tempering of a sword
In the movie: This was Schwarzenegger with the sword in Conan the Barbarian in 1982
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 first hand how things can spin out of control.
I know there is a fear in this country – and all over the world – that something like this could happen right here.
Now I do not believe it is, but, I do believe that we must be aware of the dire consequences of selfishness and cynicism.
President Trump sought to overturn the results of an election and of a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies.
My father and our neighbors were misled also 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. The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old tweet.
But what are we to make of those elected officials who have enabled his lies and his treachery?
I would remind them of what Teddy Roosevelt said: ‘Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.’
John F. Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles in Courage. A number of members of my own party, because of their own spinelessness, would never see their names in such a book, I guarantee you.
They’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self-righteous insurrection into the Capitol.
But it did not work. Our democracy stood firm. Within hours the Senate and the House of Representatives were doing the people’s business, and certifying the election of President-elect Biden.
What a great display of democracy.
Now, I grew up Catholic. I went to church, went to Catholic school, I learned the Bible and my catechism, and from those days I remember a phrase that is relevant today: ‘A servant’s heart.’
It means serving something larger than yourself. See, what we need right now from our elected representatives is a public servant’s heart.
We need public servants that serve something larger than their own power or their own party. We need public servants who can serve higher ideals: the ideals in which this country was founded, the ideals that other countries look up to.
Over the past few days friends from all over the world have been calling and calling and calling me, calling me distraught and worried us as a nation.
One woman was in tears about America, wonderful tears of idealism, about what America should be. Those tears should remind us of what American means to the world.
Now I’ve told everyone who has called that, as heartbreaking as this all is, American will come back from these dark days and shine our light once again.
Now you see this sword? This is the Conan’s sword. Here is the thing about swords: the more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes. The more you pound it with a hammer then heat it in the fire, and then thrust it into the cold water, and then pound it again, and then plunge it into the fire and the water, and the more often you do that, the stronger it becomes.
I’m not telling you all this because I want you to become an expert sword maker. But our democracy is like the steel of this sword: the more it is tempered, the stronger it becomes.
Our democracy has been tempered by wars, injustices and insurrections.
I believe, as shaken as we are about the events of recent days, we will come out stronger because we now understand what can be lost.
We need reforms of course, so that this never, ever happens again. We need to hold accountable the people that brought us to this unforgivable point.
And we need to look past ourselves, our parties and disagreements, and put our democracy first.
And we need to heal, together, from the drama of what has just happened.
We need to heal, not just as Republicans or as Democrats, but as Americans.
Now to begin this process, no matter what your political affiliation is, I ask you to join me in saying to President-elect Biden: ‘President-elect Biden, we wish you great success as our president. If you succeed our nation succeed. We support you with all our hearts as you seek to bring us together.’
And to those who think they can overturn the United States Constitution, know this: You will never win.
President-elect Biden, we stand with you today, tomorrow and forever in defense of our democracy from those who would threaten it.
May God bless all of you and may God bless America.