It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t grow up in the US, thanks to his unusual last name and signature thick accent. What nationality does that make him, and was Arnie actually born in Germany?
No, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not German. He was actually born in a small village in Austria two years after the Second World War came to a close, and even earned a nickname “Austrian Oak” during his bodybuilding days.
Childhood Years in Austria
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947 in a small village of Thal in Austria, to parents Gustav Schwarzenegger and Aurelia Jadmy. He had strict upbringing, and a strained relationship with his father, who served as the village’s police chief and used to be a member of the Nazi party.
His father’s dark past raised some red flags when he ran for the role of the Governor of California in 2003, but people who knew Arnie came to his defense. His mentor Alfred Gerstl, and the president of Graz’s Jewish community Kurt David Bruhl both knew Schwarzenegger in his youth and confirmed he “never had any Nazi ideas”.
Arnold’s father didn’t approve of his interest in bodybuilding, and saw it as the pursuit of homosexuality. His mother, who was much more supportive, also struggled understanding why he only had posters of “naked men” all across his walls, and even asked the doctor to help her figure out if there’s something wrong with her son.
His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a police officer, while his mother hoped he would attend trade school, but none of these things was in the cards for Arnold Schwarzenegger. His plan to become a successful bodybuilder formed when he was 14, and he did everything in his power to make it happen.
Move to America
In 1965, Schwarzenegger joined the Austrian army to complete a required year of service, and left basic training to take part in Junior Mr. Europe. He spent a week in the army jail as a punishment, but he didn’t mind it one bit because he won the competition.
This was just the beginning of his bodybuilding career, and he went on to win the Mr. Universe title in 1967, becoming the youngest person to do so at the age of 20. This victory made it possible for Schwarzenegger to make his American dream come true. He moved to the US in 1968, but always acknowledged the fact that being an immigrant impacted his perspective.
“What happens when you’re a foreigner is, you have the work ethic. You know that you have to struggle from the beginning; otherwise you wouldn’t be leaving your country. If you had this wonderful, rosy atmosphere, you would not want to leave,” Schwarzenegger told Men’s Health.
His dream to become a Hollywood superstar came true shortly after he received his United States citizenship in 1983. He said it felt like “joining a winning team”, because it was a realization of his childhood dream to come to this country and become an American.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum
Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t have an easy time growing up in Austria, and even skipped his father’s funeral in 1972, giving several reasons for not attending over the years. His relationship with his home country remains complicated, but many people in Austria feel the sense of pride when it comes to everything that he accomplished.
His home town of Thal celebrated his legacy by opening the world’s only museum dedicated to the Terminator star. It’s housed in his childhood home where he first started dreaming big, and features numerous exhibits charting his life and career. Schwarzenegger supported this endeavor and attended the opening of the museum in his hometown. According to the museum co-coordinator Helga Forstner, he always tries to visit Thal when in Austria.