Like a flame that never seems to get completely snuffed out, antisemitism is again on the rise in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says that the number of documented reports of harassment, vandalism and violence directed against Jewish people has risen to the highest level since it began recording these incidents in 1979.
The ADL says that antisemitic incidents have steadily increased since 2016.
The pain is felt among the Jewish community, of which 41% say that the status of Jews in the U.S. is less secure than it was the year before. Thirty-one percent agreed with the same statement in 2021.
This disturbing trend inspired actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak out. Interestingly, he didn’t direct his words at those who stand against hate but at those who may have “stumbled… into the wrong path.”
In his speech, he tried to explain how being a bigot is a sign of weakness and failure to take responsibility for one’s life.
Schwarzenegger has first-hand knowledge of the pain of being an antisemite because his father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, was a Nazi who fought in World War II. The elder Schwarzenegger was a member of the Sturmabteilung (SA), also known as the Storm Troopers or Brownshirts, and fought in some of the war’s most brutal conflicts.
“I don’t know the road that has brought you here, but I’ve seen enough people throw away their futures for hateful beliefs,” he said in the video. “So I want to speak with you before you find your regrets at the end of that path.”
The actor noted that when his father and many men like him returned from war, they were “broken men” who were “riddled with guilt.”
“They felt like losers, not only because they lost the war, but also because they fell for horrible, loser ideology. They were lied to and misled into a path that ended in misery,” Schwarzenegger continued. “…In the end, it didn’t really matter why they joined [the Nazis]. They were all broken in the same way. That’s the bottom line here.”
Schwarzenegger was also moved to speak out because he had recently taken a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where the Nazis killed 1.1 to 1.5 million people, mainly Jews. He was especially moved by seeing the possessions of those who died at the camp.
“The suitcases never claimed by the prisoners who were told to remember exactly where they’d left their belongings so they could retrieve them after they were finished with their showers…the gas chambers with scratches in the walls from the fingernails of people who tried to hold onto life…the crematorium, where the Nazis tried to erase all of their atrocities,” Schwarzenegger recalled seeing.
At the end of his speech, Schwarzenegger reiterated his belief that people succumb to hatred due to personal weaknesses that can be overcome. “When you spend your life looking for scapegoats, you take away your own responsibility. You remove your own power. You steal your own strength,” he said. “…You have to give up your war against everyone you hate…The war you really have to fight is the war against yourself.”
But, he believes there’s still hope for people to overcome their bigotry.
“There’s still time for you,” he said. “Choose strength. Choose life. Conquer your mind.”