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Sep 8, 2004 12:39 am


Arnold: A Governor, Yes--A Historian, No



From the Associated Press (Sept. 3, 2004):

Austrian historians are ridiculing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for telling the Republican National Convention that he saw Soviet tanks in his homeland as a child and left a "Socialist" country when he moved away in 1968.

Recalling that the Soviets once occupied part of Austria in the aftermath of World War II, Schwarzenegger told the convention on Tuesday: "I saw tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes."

No way, historians say, challenging Schwarzenegger's knowledge of postwar history -- if not his enduring popularity among Austrians who admire him for rising from a penniless immigrant to the highest official in America's most populous state.

"It's a fact -- as a child he could not have seen a Soviet tank in Styria," the southeastern province where Schwarzenegger was born and raised, historian Stefan Karner told the Vienna newspaper Kurier.

Schwarzenegger, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born on July 30, 1947, when Styria and the neighboring province of Carinthia belonged to the British zone. At the time, postwar Austria was occupied by the four wartime allies, which also included the United States, the Soviet Union and France.

The Soviets already had left Styria in July 1945, less than three months after the end of the war, Karner noted.

"Let me tell you this: As a boy, I lived for many years across the street from where the Russians were based in Vienna -- and honestly, I never saw a Russian tank there," retiree Franz Nitsch said Friday. "He said it all on purpose -- and that's bad."

In his convention address, Schwarzenegger also said: "As a kid, I saw the Socialist country that Austria became after the Soviets left" in 1955 and Austria regained its independence.

But Martin Polaschek, a law history scholar and vice rector of Graz University, told Kurier that Austria was governed by coalition governments, including the conservative People's Party and the Social Democratic Party. Between 1945 and 1970, all the nation's chancellors were conservatives -- not Socialists.

What's more, when Schwarzenegger left in 1968, Austria was run by a conservative government headed by People's Party Chancellor Josef Klaus, a staunch Roman Catholic and a sharp critic of both the Socialists as well as the Communists ruling in countries across the Iron Curtain.

Schwarzenegger "confuses a free country with a Socialist one," said Polaschek, referring to East European Communist officials' routine descriptions of their countries as Socialist....

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