Arnold Schwarzenegger rallies against antisemitism at Stockton

Arnold Schwarzenegger (right) is pictured with Gail Rosenthal, director, Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, Stockton University, with her hand stretched out.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (right) is pictured with Gail Rosenthal, director, Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, Stockton University, with her hand stretched out.

Actor, bodybuilder, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed over 500 people at Stockton University on Mar. 6. His message was to condemn hate and antisemitism in our society. Although Schwarzenegger is widely known as one of the top bodybuilders of all time and famous for starring in several movies, including “The Terminator,” he specifically chose to focus his message on more pressing matters— the dramatic rise of antisemitism and hate in the United States.

At the event, Schwarzenegger was presented with an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree by Stockton President Harvey Kesselman and Trustee Leo Schoffer (Jewish Federation past-president and current Jewish Community Foundation Board member) for being a distinguished leader in advocating for change in subjects such as climate change, youth engagement, as well as advocating to stop antisemitism and all forms of hate. Schwarzenegger spoke to a group of hundreds of Stockton students, faculty, staff, and community members in the Campus Center Event Room about his efforts to fight antisemitism and answered questions from the audience.

Schwarzenegger has been a major donor to anti-hate organizations and an outspoken advocate against antisemitism. In 2016, he donated $100,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center after Nazis and white supremacists marched in Charlottesville. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a world-renowned organization that “confronts antisemitism, hate, and terrorism, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.”

The former governor of California did not want to “preach to the choir” about just how rampant antisemitism is within the United States. Instead, he used his platform to talk directly to those who may find themselves reading and believing antisemitic messages and going down a path of hate. “If you find yourself at a crossroads wondering if the path of hate makes sense…it is easy to find scapegoats, but you won’t find success or happiness on that road…it is a path for the weak,” he declared.

The speech continued with his message of controlling your own mind and not giving up your power. Schwarzenegger used an anecdote about his recent experience visiting the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. “You feel a tremendous weight when you are touring…putting yourself in their shoes…realizing that when you couldn’t work anymore, you were useless and they sent you to the showers (gas chambers),” he said.

While touring the camp, he met a Holocaust survivor who was proud that the Nazis never conquered her mind. Even though they took her family and everything she loved, she still had strength and the power to control her own mind.

Since the 1980s, Schwarzenegger has been an advocate for ending hate and antisemitism. He helped bridge the gap between the Hollywood community and those working to build the Simon Wiesenthal Center in California. In just a short time, the center was built in large part because of Schwarzenegger’s contributions and advocacy. Since then, he has used his platform for good and has become further involved in the mission of speaking against hate.

During his visit to Stockton, Schwarzenegger also spent time touring the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, meeting with three Holocaust survivors and second generation family members. The survivors in attendance included Elizabeth Roth, Maude Dahme, and Leo Ullman.

All three survivors were unified in their message, which Ullman stated simply, “soon there will be no one left to tell our stories firsthand. Education is most important so the Holocaust does not get diminished over time.” Dahme added, “for all students to hear our stories—especially in the world we live in today—it is vital that they hear them, especially about those who were hidden during the Holocaust.”

Invited to meet Schwarzenegger prior to the speaking engagement were a group of interns from the Holocaust Resource Center. These individuals represent the Center and help when middle school and high school groups tour as well as organize and provide materials for projects. As the next generation being taught Holocaust education, they were honored to be included in the meet and greet with Schwarzenegger and the Holocaust survivors, and as one intern said, “I’ve learned a lot and it is an honor just to be in the same room [as the survivors].” Another intern immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when he was 13. He stated, “I learned nothing about the Holocaust in high school and this is all so new to me, but I am glad to be learning about it.” All the students agreed that they are appreciative how informed they have become about the Holocaust and believe it is important to have the knowledge so history does not repeat itself.

In the Holocaust Resource Center, there is a new permanent exhibit about the life of Ullman. Titled “The Extraordinary Heroism of Ordinary People,” the interactive exhibition tells the history of the Holocaust in the Netherlands through the story of Leo Ullman and his family, who were saved through the acts of non-Jewish families who hid them and provided them with forged documents. Ullman was just three years old when his family went into hiding. Ultimately a non-Jewish family cared for him for three years. Ullman noted that when the war ended, and he was able to come out of hiding, they found out that all of the neighbors on the street knew he was a hidden Jewish child, but, miraculously, no one had reported it to the Nazis, keeping him safe.

Meeting with individuals of the second generation to the Shoah provided a powerful discussion on growing up with a survivor. As Ed Roth (son of Elizabeth Roth) explained, “growing up, I didn’t have grandparents and there were people who would have been my aunts and uncles but they all passed away in the war. This was the same for my friends. There were so few of them that had families.” Now, his own kids have excelled and have learned about the Holocaust on their own. At Vineland High School, they took a class called “Conscience of Man” taught by Harry Furman, the son of a survivor. Additionally, like many other Holocaust survivors, Elizabeth Roth did not initially want to talk about her experiences, but her husband Sam eventually opened up about his time, and while recording his testimony, the family learned more information than they had ever known before. The Roth family story is now being shared with students at Stockton and beyond. A new generation is bearing witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the responsibility will fall on them to make sure the stories continue to be shared.

Stockton University is clear in its core value that it is an institution that fights for inclusion. For more information about the Holocaust Resource Center and the work it is doing to combat hate through education in America, contact (609) 652-4699 or

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