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No Ties Found to Candidate's Father, War Crimes

Researchers hired by the Simon Wiesenthal Center say no records implicate Arnold Schwarzenegger's father in WWII atrocities.

September 09, 2003|Matt Lait | Times Staff Writer

After a three-week investigation, officials at the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Monday they have found no evidence linking the father of gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger to Nazi war crimes.

Gustav Schwarzenegger was a Nazi Party member who served with the Sturmabteilungen (SA) paramilitary unit, known as storm troopers, according to recently released documents. But records in Austria, Germany and the United States do not implicate the elder Schwarzenegger or his SA unit 521 in wartime atrocities, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center.

In recent weeks, Gustav Schwarzenegger's war record has come under renewed scrutiny as a result of Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy. In 1990, the actor asked the Wiesenthal Center to probe his father's past after news reports at the time linked him to the Nazi Party. That investigation turned up no evidence that Gustav Schwarzenegger was a war criminal.

Last month, the Wiesenthal Center launched a new probe, with the encouragement of Arnold Schwarzenegger, after The Times disclosed that documents in the Austrian archives showed Gustav Schwarzenegger was a member of the SA, or "brownshirts," which was populated by some of Adolf Hitler's most ardent supporters.

Researchers from the Wiesenthal Center failed to discover that fact during their 1990 investigation.

Hier said the records containing that information were not available at the time.

In light of the new information, Hier said, the Wiesenthal Center wanted to dig deeper and determine whether Gustav Schwarzenegger's SA unit had been associated with atrocities. He asked two renowned researchers to examine a variety of records, including documents generated during war-crime trials in former East Germany and in West Germany, as well as Nazi records detailing commendations for soldiers.

Hier said the findings were sent last week to Arnold Schwarzenegger, a longtime financial contributor to the Wiesenthal Center.

"Arnold has been very active in seeking the facts surrounding his father's wartime record, and he has been very active with the Wiesenthal Center and other programs that vigorously promote tolerance and fight bigotry and hatred," said Sean Walsh, a Schwarzenegger spokesman.

In his report to the Wiesenthal Center, historian Stefan Klemp said that, based on the records he reviewed, there is nothing linking Gustav Schwarzenegger or his unit to war crimes.

"We cannot say with absolute certainty that because ... unit 521 has never been charged, that it did not participate in crimes against civilians," said Klemp, who has written numerous books and articles on the Nazis. "My experience in research in Germany shows that often police units were never tried, sometimes not even investigated. However, what we have before us now shows no evidence of any crimes committed."

Researcher Robert Wolfe agreed, saying it appears that "Gustav Schwarzenegger was merely one of the massive category of persons who, willingly or unwillingly, performed duties assigned by, and met obligations to, a criminal society in which they found themselves.

"Whatever the judgment on the father, however, fairness enjoins us not to 'visit the sins of the fathers on the sons,' " he said.

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