Fact Check: Was Arnold Schwarzenegger's Dad a Nazi Sergeant?

Arnold Schwarzenegger has criticized anyone failing to follow the regulations designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 telling them "Screw your freedom."

Schwarzenegger made the comments in a video interview with CNN journalist Bianna Golodryga to discuss Here, Right Matters, a new memoir by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

He said: "There is a virus here. It kills people, and the only way we prevent it is get vaccinated, get masks, do social distancing, washing your hands all the time and not just to think about, 'Well, my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.' No, screw your freedom."

"Yeah, you have the freedom to wear no mask, but you know something: You're a schmuck for not wearing a mask because you're supposed to protect your fellow members around you," he added. "It's just that simple."

The Claim

Alt-right political activist and senior editor at the conservative publication Human Events Jack Posobiec shared a link to the actor's comments tweeting: "Arnold Schwarzenegger's father was a member of Hitler's Brownshirts and served as a 1st Sgt in the Wehrmacht."

Posobiec's claim has been retweeted more than 3,000 times and liked over 6,500 times on Twitter, with celebrity bodybuilder and entrepreneur Marc Lobliner among those to share the tweet, writing "I lost all respect for Arnold during the lockdowns."

His message was retweeted a further 400 times and liked more than 1,000 times on the platform. Journalist Jordan Schachtel also alluded to the claim in a tweet writing "People with family ties to actual Nazis should think more before they speak." His message was liked and shared more than 1,200 times on Twitter.

The Facts

Arnold Schwarzennegger's father, Gustav, was indeed a Nazi.

Growing up in the small village of Thal in Austria, Schwarzenegger knew very little about his father, who worked as a police officer and postal inspector there.

Gustav passed away in 1972 but in the late 1980s newspaper reports emerged claiming he was a member of the Nazi party.

In July 1990, Schwarzenegger approached Rabbi Marvin Hier at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish civil rights organization based in Los Angeles, and asked him to conduct an investigation into his father's role in the Second World War.

The two month-long investigation uncovered that Gustav had applied for membership in the Nazi Party in 1938, just before Germany annexed Austria, and was accepted three years later in 1941.

However the Wiesenthal Center found no evidence to suggest Schwarzenegger's father had been part of the Sturmabteilungen (SA) or the Schutzstaffel (SS).

That was how the situation remained until August 2003 when, ahead of his run for Governor of California, an LA Times investigation uncovered documents in the Austrian State Archives in Vienna showing Gustav was more heavily involved in Hitler's regime than previously thought.

The documents showed that Gustav Schwarzenegger had been a member of the SA, otherwise known as the storm troopers or brownshirts, having joined on May 1, 1939, six months prior to "Kristallnacht", or the "Night of the Broken Glass", when Jewish homes, businesses and places of worship were attacked across Germany and Austria.

Thousands of Jewish people were removed from their homes and taken to concentration camps in the ensuing chaos, with the SA playing a prominent role in much of what unfolded.

The documents also revealed that Gustav served in the Unified Armed Forces of the Nazi Party, known as the Wehrmacht, and fought in some of the most brutal theaters of the war including the invasions of Poland and France as well as the siege of Leningrad.

While the report noted there was no way of knowing the role played by Schwarzenegger's father, Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum noted that Gustav appeared to have been "in the thick of the battle during the most difficult times" in conflicts where some of "most horrific military and nonmilitary killings" took place.

Gustav Schwarzenegger later rose to the rank of master sergeant with the Feldgendarmerie, the military police, who often served as combat troops deployed on the frontline to suppress civilians from marching on the advancing German forces.

The LA Times research also uncovered papers that found that Gustav was allowed to return to work in the postwar state in 1947 after no specific war crimes were attributed to him.

The Wiesenthal Center later explained that it had failed to uncover much of the new evidence because the records accessed by the LA Times remained sealed until 2002—30 years after Gustav's death.

The Ruling

Fact Check - True

True.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek

Gustav Schwarzenegger was a Nazi Sergeant, having risen to the rank of master sergeant with the Feldgendarmerie, the military police wing of the Nazis, during the war.

The Terminator actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Arnold Classic Europe 2019 - some of the claims centering on his father's role in the Second World War have resurfaced. Getty/Robert Marquad