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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 49 November 26, 2022

An Expose of Hitler’s Disdain for India | M.R. Narayan Swamy

Saturday 26 November 2022, by M R Narayan Swamy

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BOOK REVIEW

Hitler and India:

The untold Story of his Hatred for the Country and Its People

by Vaibhav Purandare

HarperCollins Publishers

207 pages

Price: Rs 399

Adolf Hitler is considered by some as a friend of India because he hosted, even if briefly, Subhas Chandra Bose. This is perhaps one reason why his autobiography Mein Kampf sells well in this country. The reality is nauseatingly different, as journalist-author Vairbhav Purandare unveils in this path breaking book.

No one in Europe hated India as much as Hitler did. Winston Churchill had a reason to intensely dislike Indians as they were itching to boot out the British. Hitler loathed Indians only because he thought that the Germans and English were a superior race while Indians were a distasteful lot who deserved not only to be lorded over but treated with contempt.

No wonder Hitler repeatedly liked to see the 1935 Hollywood film The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, which took the view that Indians had no right over their own land as they were uncivilized. Whenever he saw it, he would rub his hands together and exclaim: “It’s starting, it’s starting.” It is an attitude he applied to India and its people all his life — from the time he took power till his suicide.

Barely four weeks after he was sworn in as Chancellor, his Nazi party’s strongarm unit arrested two Indians: A.C.N. Nambiar, who ran the Congress-backed India Information Bureau, and Jaya Surya Naidu, son of Sarojini Naidu. Both were abused and treated harshly in custody and eventually told to quit Germany. Another Indian arrested by Gestapo on trumped up charges of being a Communist was D.K. Gupta, who spent 18 months in prison. The Germans even arrested Saumyendranath Tagore, the grandson of Rabindranath Tagore’s eldest brother, on the outrageous charge that he was plotting to kill Hitler!

The Nazi leader was always against attempts to connect with Indians as he had “better things to do”. England, he said, could only lose India if it falls a victim to racial degeneration. “As a German, I would ... still far rather see India under English than under some other rule,” he wrote. For him, race came before power. He viewed Indians as outright rejects. Both in Mein Kampf and outside, he combined hatred with contempt for Indians. Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg described Indians as “poor bastards” who sought “healing for their crippled existence in the waters of the Ganges”.

Gregor Strasser, a popular Nazi leader who however wanted Germany to take the side of colonized people like the Indians, was shot dead on Hitler’s orders. Before the execution, Hitler told Gregor’s more radical brother Otto Strasser that it was wrong to back “a rebellion of the inferior Hindu race against the valorous Anglo-Nordic. The Nordic race has the right to dominate the world, and that right will be the guiding principle of our foreign policy.” Any admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, he underlined, was “a racial perversity”.

Hitler reserved special scorn for Gandhi. In 1937, he told Irwin, then called Lord Halifax, that the easy way to resolve the “Indian problem” was to shoot Gandhi. “And if that does not suffice to reduce them to submission, shoot a dozen leading members of the Congress, and if that does not suffice, shoot 200 and so on until order is established.” To a perplexed Irwin, the Nazi boss added: “You will see how quickly they will collapse as soon as you make it clear that you mean business.” On another occasion, he derisively remarked: “The Indians can think themselves lucky that we do not rule India. We should make their lives a misery!”

Although Subhas Chandra Bose made it to Germany after escaping from house arrest in Calcutta following the outbreak of World War II, he knew that Indians were treated badly in Nazi Germany. Bose, on an earlier visit, was himself taunted on the streets as “Neger” (Negro). Some Indian students had even been pelted with stones. By 1935, German law outlawed sexual relations and marriage between Aryans and non-Aryans. Indians were not considered Aryans.

Bose reached Berlin hoping to goad the Germans into supporting India’s campaign for independence but the wish remained unfulfilled. The Nazis were clearly unenthusiastic about Bose, and at one point wanted him to move to a neutral country as they did not want to offend the British even as the war was raging. Hitler repeatedly spurned requests from Bose for a meeting. He relented only after 13 long months. It was an hour-long meeting but Hitler kept a monologue as had become his habit and a disappointed Bose left for Japan.

Till he died, Hitler’s hatred for India never went away. Surprisingly, his admiration for British racial superiority remained intact even as the war began to go against him. He acclaimed the way the British conquered and ruled India, keeping a distance from the average Indians. India would crack up in 20 years if the British left the colony, he lamented, echoing Churchill. Even as his generals became desperate for troops towards the end of the war, Hitler refused to touch the Indian Legion Bose had set up with Indian soldiers who surrendered to the Axis powers. “The Indian Legion is a joke,” he roared. “There are Indians who couldn’t kill a hose.” After accusing Indian soldiers of running away “like sheep” in Burma, Hitler offered his wisdom: “If the Indians were used to turn prayer wheels or something like that, they’d be the most untiring soldiers in the world.”

Hitler loved to hate Indians. He did not help Subhas Bose; he tolerated him. This book must be read by every Indian who has even an iota of admiration for the unadulterated fascist.

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