Austrians Cheer, Remember Arnold

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a nice tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger by two old friends from Austria, Alferd Gerstl and Albert Kaufmann:
“Those of us from his hometown here who have known Arnold Schwarzenegger a long time–indeed consider him a friend–never had any doubt that he could win the California election to become governor.
“About the lies, let’s be done with those right away. Not only is Arnold not a Hitler sympathizer; he actively helped both of us in our battles against neo-Nazis here in Austria. This help began very early in Arnold’s teenage years and continued after he became a Hollywood star. Arnold did not forget us or his obligation to his hometown.
“One of us (Alfred Gerstl) was a leader of the partisan resistance against the Nazi occupation and his grandfather was Cantor at a New York synagogue. On being released from prison in 1945, I determined to always make sure those around me understood the evil of Nazism. As Arnold was growing up, he used to listen intently to what I had to say. He worked out with my son Karl, and they and their friends would congregate at the Gerstl house afterward.
“Once, in 1964, I took Arnold to see a lecture on Nazi crimes that a professor had organized here in Graz. Arnold was very affected by what he heard. Neo-Nazis had organized a demonstration against this professor, and I put together a counter-demonstration. There was an altercation, which was a foolish move for the other side since at that time Arnold had already begun working out with weights.
“Meanwhile, the other one of us (Albert Kaufmann) worked on an education project to inform people about the evils of Nazism. The adult Arnold also supported us throughout our endeavor. He called us several times, encouraging us to ‘go on fighting against right-wing extremism.’ He introduced me to Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, of whom he said, ‘He’s a real hero. I’m proud to be his friend.’
“Now a word about America. No one here was in the least surprised that America has embraced an immigrant in this way. America freed us from the Nazi period; America liberated the concentration camps. We Austrians are not just very fond of America, we admire it too. Nor is this just a generational thing for people with memories of the war. Our youth watches MTV and is every bit as influenced by the U.S. as we were. Our societies are very similar. So in Graz we’re raising a toast to Arnold, our hometown boy, who now leads one of the most powerful states in our most important ally, the U.S.”
The “groper” smears directed at Arnold by the Democrats were, I think, fair game, although whether thirty-year old, anonymous accusations should be retailed is obviously debatable. But put that to one side. What I found deeply contemptible was the Democrats’ attempt to paint Arnold as a Nazi sympathizer. Other than his accent and his German name, there was nothing to support this slur, and in fact, any well-informed person would know that it was false. That this didn’t stop the Democrats from repeating the lie is to their everlasting shame.


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