Arnold Schwarzenegger was honored with the inaugural Award of Courage at Holocaust Museum LA’s annual gala on Monday for his longtime fight against antisemitism and bigotry.
The event, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, was particularly timely due to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, and counted 27 Holocaust survivors as guests of the evening. Holocaust Museum LA, celebrating its 15th annual gala, is the oldest Holocaust museum in the U.S., and board chair Guy Lipa started off the event by noting, “our community it devastated by the atrocities committed by Hamas. We are angry and scared when we see violent antisemitism in our backyard and around the globe, but I am heartened seeing our community come together tonight.”
Schwarzenegger was presented his award by producer Mike Medavoy, who the star credited as launching his acting career after becoming a successful bodybuilder. Looking back on his life, Schwarzenegger said he had dreams to become the most muscular man in the world, as well as to come to America and become rich and famous. But as a native of Austria, and as the son of a Nazi, he also wanted to fight “for inclusion against hatred and speak out about hatred, and how wrong it is to not look at everyone’s life equally. And to attack each other because of someone’s religion and religious background or their color or their sex, whatever it is.”
The star continued, “I felt it was very important, especially since I come from a country that is known to be a big part of the second World War and had the most vicious Nazis during the second World War and beforehand. I thought it is important to go out and to let people know that the next generation doesn’t have to be the same, that the next generation can change.”
He recalled encountering antisemitism in his own home when he bought a bodybuilding magazine as a teenager and his father disparaged it when he found out the publisher of the magazine was Jewish. Years later, after Schwarzenegger won Mr. Universe and was invited to America — and set up with housing and money in the States — he called his father to tell him it was that same publisher who had made it all happen.
“From that moment on, I said to myself, ‘I have to go and fight that, I have to go and speak out about hatred, I have to go and 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 have another power,’” in being a public voice against antisemitism.
He has since visited former Nazi camp Auschwitz and said he plans to return with “a whole bunch of Hollywood celebrities so they can see what is going on, what went on there and to put the spotlight on this issue.”
Schwarzenegger added that right now “there’s all this chatter out there and all this stuff and all this negativity and hatred that we have to speak up and confront them. The more we speak out about that issue, the better it is. So every day you have to talk about that, you have talk about it over and over again because we cannot let them get away with those lies and with this hatred. You’ve got to talk to them, and talk them down and let them know that the only way to go is through love… hatred you never ever win; love in the end always wins.”