Hitler, the evil dictator, one of the most hated rulers of modern history.
Hitler was responsible for the death of millions of innocent people, just because they did not fit his distorted vision of so called ‘pure race’. For some reason, the Indians seem to have a bit different view of Hitler than rest of the world. However, it is not by choice. The fact is that Hitler, a globally hated figure, is not much discussed in Indian class-rooms, or outside-the-class for that matter. The world war history taught in our schools has focused on what India saw or what India gained/lost during that period of instability.
Indians, during 1940s, had bigger things to worry about. The partition of India was the main problem at our hand; we were too busy hating our own neighbors, who had no time for Hitler!
If anything, Hitler has always been a subject of curiosity amongst Indians. Most of the western world hates him with passion. We – the Indians – don’t see this hate or strong dislike of him until we leave India and go overseas.
Hate or no hate, Hitler has become a fascinating figure in India. The limited knowledge of his life amongst our cultures and the way he is portrayed in Indian school books leaves us wanting for more.
1940s – India and German
To understand the relation between India and Hitler, we need to remind ourselves about the world politics in the early 20th century.
In early 1930s Hitler was gaining popularity in Europe and rest of the world was starting to take notice of his fanatic views. Moreover, inside and outside of Europe, German was considered as one of the major world power with one of the most organized and most powerful army in the world. After an alliance with Italy, German practically ruled a large part of Europe.
Around the same time, in 1930s and 1940s, India’s struggle for freedom was starting to gain momentum. While Gandhi and his followers were taking a non-violence route to the ultimate goal of independence, there were others who were considering all means and possibilities, – including violence – to push the British Empire out of the country. Subhash Chandra Bose was one of them.
Subhash Chandra Bose and Hitler
As they say, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’!
In 1940s, around the same time when England (along with its allies) was fighting German in the World War II, Indian freedom fighters were looking for ways to beat England on the Indian soil. For these Indian fighters, German and Hitler – an enemy of the enemy – was hard to ignore from the possible list of friends.
In 1941, Subhash Chandra Bose, the Indian revolutionary leader, went to German seeking help for Indian freedom fight against British Empire. His main goal was to get Hitler’s help for organizing an Indian army to fight against England – the common enemy.
According to a BBC Documentary, based on their investigation, Hitler’s regime had officially recognized Bose’s “Free India Government” in exile, and even agreed to help Bose raise an army to fight for his cause. The Indian volunteers, many of them recruited from the German prison camps, joined Bose’s army. Eventually, he was able gain support from an army of a few thousands of Indians in German.
However, Hitler did not deliver on his promise to help Bose.
When German invaded Russia, a country that Bose admired, and after he found out that Hitler’s promise to help was shallow with no substance, his ‘freedom movement’ in German was practically over. Hitler just wanted to use his Indian connection for propaganda. In the end, Bose’s efforts in German were fruitless.
In 1943, with no hope in sight from German side, Bose secretly slipped away in a Japanese submarine and went to Japan where he was much more successful in gathering a much larger army of volunteers. His German recruits were forced to join Hitler’s army, a sad end to their big dream.
So in the end, Hitler – an enemy of the enemy – was not really a friend of India. May be he was not the kind of person who could make many friends. In fact, according to his biography, August Kubizek was the only friend he had during his youth days. Once in power, Hitler did not bother to see this friend again, for 30 years.
Enough said? May be not, we always want to know more, even if it is evil and distasteful. That’s why Hitler’s autobiography is selling like hot cakes in India.
- Hitler and India – A history divided!
- Hitler and India – The Swastika
- Hitler and India – The Aryan Race