A Look at Schwarzenegger’s Father’s Ties to the Nazis and Arnold’s Connection to Racist Hate Groups

StoryAugust 26, 2003
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Biographer Wendy Leigh reveals Arnold’s father voluntarily became a Nazi brown-shirted stormtrooper and how the gubernatorial candidate once publicly made Hitler-like gestures. Meanwhile the Southern Poverty Law Center outlines the links between U.S. English (where Arnold serves on the board) and right-wing hate groups. [includes transcript]

“Arnie’s Father, the Nazi”

That was the headline of an article by British journalist and biographer Wendy Leigh last March.

At the time of the story’s publication Arnold Schwarzenegger was simply Arnold the actor. Today he stands a chance to soon become Arnold the governor and the story is getting a second life.

In the piece Wendy Leigh reveals that newly found documents show Arnold’s father Gustav had voluntarily joined the Nazi party in Austria and was a member of Hitler’s notorious brown-shirted stormtroopers.

Connections between the Schwarzenegger family and Nazis have been known since the early 1990s when Leigh published her book Arnold: The Unauthorized Biography.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post recently reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger has served for 15 years on the board of the organization U.S. English which promotes English to be the country’s official. The group also opposes bilingual education.

Less known about the organization are the groups ties to right-wing nationalist movements. US Engligh co-founder John Tanton has started 13 anti-immigrant groups including three that are labeled hate groups by the SPLC.

  • Wendy Leigh, journalist and author of the 1990 book Arnold: An Unauthorized Biography. She is working on an updated version. Earlier this year she revealed that Arnold’s father was a Nazi stormtrooper.
  • Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quarterly Intelligence Report, which monitors far-right hate groups in the United States.
  • Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.


AMY GOODMAN: Now we go to California to the California recall vote. “Arnie’s father, the Nazi”, that was the headline of an article by British journalist and biographer Wendy Lee last March .At the time of the story’s publication Arnold Schwarzenegger was simply Arnold the actor. Today he stands a chance to soon become Arnold the governor and the story is getting a second light. The latest from the “Los Angeles Times” poll has found that California lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante has taken a wide lead over Schwarzenegger, 35% of the voters backing Bustamante, Schwarzenegger stood at 22%. But the poll was taken before Republican bill Simon dropped out of the race. Simon who was a Republican gubernatorial nominee last year was polling at about 6%.So this story. Journalist Wendy Lee reveals that newly found documents show that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s father Gustaf had voluntarily joined the Nazi party in Austria, was a member of Hitler’s notorious brown-shirted storm troopers known as the brown shirts. Connections between the Schwarzenegger family and Nazis have been known since the early 1990’s when Lee published her book Arnold: The Unauthorized Biography. Today Wendy Lee is working on an updated book and she joins us on the phone from Britain.Welcome to Democracy Now!

WENDY LEIGH:Thank you so much I’m glad to be talking to you.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, can you tell us what the allegations are and why that in any way taints Arnold Schwarzenegger.

WENDY LEIGH:Well, they are not allegations they’re facts. That Gustaf Schwarzenegger in March of 1938 applied to become a member of the Nazi party. But that he also was a member of Hitler’s brown shirts. None of this is actually a reflection on Arnold.But at the time when I made the original allegations, well, your word not mine, when I found the documents in Berlin, Arnold did everything to stop the American media and indeed any media from reporting them. I think that is what is disturbing to me.T hat to go into politics in a country where the first amendment is a cornerstone of that country and to do everything you can to circumvent it as he certainly did in my case is a bit disturbing.

AMY GOODMAN: What did he do to try to stop the information from getting out?

WENDY LEIGH: Well Journalists at the Cannes Film Festival who wanted to interview Arnold about the film “Total Recall”, this is in 1990, had to sign before any interview they had to sign an agreement that they wouldn’t ask Arnold about my book or mention it in their articles.And there was a lot more evidence from other media that Arnold has done all he could to make sure that my book wasn’t mentioned.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Arnold himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his views on this issue.Also going back to his relationship with Kurt Waldheim.

WENDY LEIGH: Arnold has done all he can in financial terms to mitigate any fallout from his father’s past.He has donated, since my book was published, he donated large sums of money to the Simon Weisenthal Institute.And has done all he could to mitigate the fall out.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean when you say he’s given large amounts of money to the Simon Weisenthal Center which investigates Nazis known as the leading Nazi hunter, what do they say about his father?

WENDY LEIGH: Well in Los Angeles. They’re very enthusiastic about Arnold.And he’s been a big supporter of the institute in L.A.

AMY GOODMAN: But what do they say about his father, Gustaf Schwarzenegger, and also about his meeting with Kurt Waldheim

WENDY LEIGH: Well, they’re two separate issues.They obviously feel as I do that Arnold’s father is no reflection on Arnold.The son is not responsible for the crimes of the father. As for the Kurt Waldheim scenario, it’s a whole other issue. Kurt Waldheim at the time of Arnold’s 1986 marriage has been revealed as having played a large part in war crimes in the Balkans. He had of course at that point been direct general of the U.N. But research by the World Jewish Congress proved that he had in fact been involved in war crimes. Arnold at his wedding to Maria Shriver in April 1986, Kurt Waldheim at that point I must make clear was president of Austria, had sent Arnold a life-size statue of himself and Maria in Austrian traditional leiderhosen costume and Arnold made very kind of long, well not long, but a very ? toast basically saying that no matter what the allegations were he loved Kurt.Later on he told one of the sources who I interviewed for my book that he felt that Waldheim had been a victim of bad publicity. And he also at later date met with Waldheim in Austria. That again I mean he’s back-pedaled very much from that position. Of being a friend I guess is probably too strong a word but of not being — of being I suppose advocate of Waldheim, he’s definitely back-pedaled from all of that

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Wendy Leigh who wrote the unauthorized biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger.called Arnold. The Jerusalem Post reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger was photographed in 1996 with Jorg Heider, the leader of Austria’s extreme right wing freedom party. Heider has praised Hitler’s “sensible policies” and also was filmed at a secret S.S. reunion.

WENDY LEIGH: That’s a bit shocking and it seems surprising to me.My book finishes in 1990.I’m actually currently updating.I know nothing about that situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was Heider. Looking at your book, an unauthorized biography, Heider.


AMY GOODMAN: An unauthorized biography Arnold, You say, it must also be pointed out the second of the, you talk about witnesses over the years who have seen Arnold break into the sieg heil salute and play his records of Hitler speeches.You also have Arnold responding to that.Can you talk more about that?

WENDY LEIGH: At this point I really feel that we should move on and talk about Arnold now.I mean now, in the past years, there’s no evidence at all that this was anything but a youthful moment or two.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

WENDY LEIGH: I mean the sources date back to when Arnold first came to America during times when he was a body builder, clowning around. And I mean I think this was something that faded out pretty quickly.

AMY GOODMAN: The “Washington Post” recently reported Arnold Schwarzenegger has served for 15 years on the organization U.S. English which promotes English to be the country’s official language. The group also opposes bilingual education, less known about the organization are the group’s ties to right wing nationalist movement.On the line with us in addition to Wendy Leigh, the unauthorized biographer of Arnold Schwarzenegger, is Mark Potok editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quarterly intelligent report, which monitors far right hate groups in the United States.Can you talk about this organization that Arnold Schwarzenegger has served on the board of for more than a dozen years?

MARK POTOK: Yeah, it’s an important piece of this puzzle I think. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined back in 1988, the advisory board of U.S. English very shortly after that, there was a scandal when memos were leaked written by the group’s founder, John Tanton the memo said essentially they made racist statements about Hispanics. They weren’t completely guttural statements. But they were enough to cause at that time Walter Cronkite to quit the advisory board of the group and Linda Chavez, the conservative republican columnist to quit as executive director. But Schwarzenegger stayed on. That’s I guess is neither here nor there that was 15 years ago, thereabouts. But very recently we found about three months ago the U.S. English had just hired a guy named James Lubinskus. Lubinskus is a fellow who is for many years back to 1998 the assistant editor of something called American Renaissance which is simply a white supremacist magazine. In addition Lubinskus has spoken at groups of Klan-like organizations that featured, you know, on the Dias with David Duke, a well known neo-Nazi named Sam Van Rensberg, the membership coordinator of our main neo-Nazi group in the United States. And so on. I am not alleging because I certainly don’t know that Schwarzenegger had any idea who these people were.I think it’s not believable that the people who run U.S. English had no idea who Lubiskus was.He’s very well known in racist circles. And really the point is that since this came out, since we told the columnist of the “Washington Post” the details of what had occurred at US English, David Horowitz, the very conservative fellow who used to be a left winger has reportedly left the advisory board as a result, in addition Lubiskus was either fired or resigned he left right away after that column appeared with these revelations contained in it.And Schwarzenegger has done nothing. He said nothing about it, he is still up there if you go on the website today, you will find him on the advisory board. Along I should say in the interest of fairness with a number of other celebrities. People like Alex Trebeck that is the story. I think that what U.S. English has shown is they have always been kind of followed by accusations, allegations of racism. I think the hiring a few months of this fellow Lubinskus tells you something about the group. This is not a mainstream immigration restriction group. It’s got a nastier agenda underneath.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to talk about how this is playing out. Lydia Camarillo is on the line with us as well. She is the vice president of the southwest voter registration education project.How does this play with the voters, the big news in California which isn’t news, is the power of Latino voters in California.

LYDIA CAMARILLO: Well, I think that both the whole connection of the U.S. English which is a sensitive issue for Latinos over the last 20 years is basically has been an affirmation of a group who refuses to understand that the Latino culture includes being bi-cultured and bilingual and has aggressively attempted to eliminate those rights of the community.That connection coupled with the whole connection of Arnold’s prop. 187, is sending a chilling message to the Latino electorate. I think that’s why you saw Arnold’s numbers dropping so dramatically from being the front runner above all at about 45 to 49% to now 22 as people are beginning to understand not only his positions but his connections to groups that are out right have attacked and have a history of attacking the Latino community.So I think that that coupled with the fact that now Cruz Bustamante, who is a Latino fought against 187 has stood as Latino and…

AMY GOODMAN: And for listeners around the country who are not as familiar with prop 187 how would you describe it in a sentence?

LYDIA CAMARILLO: Well, 187 is what we saw as in 1994 a proposition that was trying to eliminate the rights of, at that time people thought it was just for against undocumented communities, the right to be educated was really an attack on children, not allowing children to be educated in public schools and not having the right to have communities to have health education.

AMY GOODMAN: Now Pete Wilson was a big proponent of it.He also is one of the most vocal people, spokespeople right now for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

LYDIA CAMARILLO: Wilson used that as strategy to win and garner the conservative right, which is the exactly same strategy that they’re using for Arnold.Right now because there are several Republicans, although Simon dropped out.

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.

LYDIA CAMARILLO: That are pretty prominent conservatives they need the conservative right. They’ve decided, Arnold’s strategists, that the best way is to show the conservative right that conservative arm that strategy and then alienate the alienate the Latino electorate

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Lydia Camarillo, I want to thank you for being with us. Vice president of the Southwest voter registration education project. Mark Potok, of Southern Poverty Law Center. Wendy Leigh journalist writing an update to her unauthorized biography called “Arnold” speaking to us from London. That does it for the show. If you would like a copy call 1-800-881-2359.I should say we called the Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign and asked for anyone, we also asked the Simon Weisenthal center to be on the program. Both did not get back to us. I’m Amy Goodman.

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