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Hitler and Indian Independence

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College, and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters

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Understanding Indian thought


Adolf Hitler is a man held in contempt in the West. Most people focus on his "crimes" which are true. He brought about the Second World War and resultant ruin and carried out his race theories leading to the Holocaust. In the sub-continent, there is a different perception of this man. One reason is that the people of the subcontinent never experienced the harshness of Hitler. They also have a slightly different perception of the German leader.

We know the story from the Upanishad of three blind men who were asked to describe an elephant and each of them touched different parts and gave a different description. Something similar happened in India and the Indians never had any experience of the Holocaust. On the contrary, they remember that the great Indian wartime leader Subhash Chandra Bose joined up with the Axis to free India and the Germans were the first to recognize the free Indian government in exile. People in India remember that during the war there was the great Bengal famine and 2 million Indians died of starvation and when Winston Churchill was told about it he made an obnoxious comment," Famine or not Indians will breed like rabbits."

In India, many people have a different perception of Hitler and now some historians have concluded that perhaps Hitler did have some effect on the freedom of India.

A small incident when I was a child is worth recounting here. I was told by my grandfather that it was forbidden to listen to the radio broadcast from Germany. In the middle of the night, he and his friends would tune in to Berlin and secretly listen to the broadcast from Germany. He told me he identified with them. When the news came that Tobruk had been captured by Rommel, he and his friends in the middle of the night toasted a glass of wine. He would also anxiously wait for the broadcast by the Indian leader Subhas Chandra Bose and it was a matter of great thrill for him.

From the above, it should be clear to the reader that the nature of the Nazi rule was unknown to Indians and all they knew was that there was a man who supports the independence of India. This contrasted sharply with the statement of Winston Churchill who said that he had not become the first minister of the King's cabinet to provide over the liquidation of the British Empire. In retrospect as far as British rule over India is concerned the victory of Great Britain turned sour. It was a Pyrrhic victory and reduced England from Great Britain to Little Britain.

People recollect that in 1938 the British Empire was at its zenith and nobody could have dreamed that it would collapse inside a decade. And that time the British were talking of rule over India for the next hundred years and were going on making development projects with that in mind. However, within two years of the end of the second world war, the British Empire collapsed, and " the brightest jewel" in the British empire slipped away.

How did this happen? Many Indian historians and thinkers are now of the opinion that this happened because the war with Germany completely emaciated the British and they lost the sinews to control the Empire. A lot of credit is given to the movement of Satyagraha launched by Gandhi but we must remember that the satyagraha movement had been going on for 30 years and Gandhi was treated with kid gloves by the English.

The British were certainly not worried about the non-cooperation movement of Gandhi because they had a measure of him. In South Africa, he had been a supporter of the British rule and had even served in the ambulance brigade of the British Army. He had also helped in the recruitment of Indians to the army and was overall a supporter of the Raj. What then forced the British to leave India within two years of the end of World War II?


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Freedom

In 1945 the British hoped to reassert their control over the subcontinent. But two momentous events took place. First Winston Churchill was defeated in the general elections and Clement Attlee the Labour Party leader became the Prime Minister. The Labour Party for many years had been championing the cause of independence for India.

The second momentous event that took place was the realization in London that the Indian Army and Navy which had been used to perpetuate the Raj could no longer be relied upon. In 1946, mutinies took place in Bombay and Karachi and British officers were shot dead. Also, the factor of Subhash Bose affected British psyche. Bose had teamed up with the Axis powers for the freedom of India. He had formed the Indian Legion in Europe and the Indian National Army(INA) in the east. Both these forces were recruited from prisoners of war of the Indian Army who had been captured by the Axis. The army which had been loyal all the time to the English had now turned against them. The Indian massas knew the role of the Indian National Army and Subhas Bose and also knew that he had joined up with the Axis powers. Both Japan and Germany had recognized the Indian government in exile headed by Subhas Chandra Bose.

The British still hoped to control India and with great fanfare, 46 officers and leaders of the Indian National Army were tried in the famous Red Fort for crimes against the Empire. The British hoped to have a trial like the Tokyo tribunal. But they had not bargained for mutinies in the army and the general unrest in the entire country where people were aghast that these 46 men who were termed as heroes were being tried for treason by the British. Nevertheless, the trials were held and all the 46 were given stiff sentences but that was about all because Field Marshal Auchinleck commander-in-chief India sensing the mood of the nation did not confirm the sentences and commuted all the sentences and not a single sentence was carried out. This was after he filed his report to Lord Attlee about the situation in the country.

The Labour Party had all along believed in independence for India and Attlee decided that the time had come to leave India. At that time the British did not have the wherewithal to control India. They were economically weak and rationing had been introduced in England and overall the situation was bleak. The Conservative party made a request to the Americans for help but President Truman rejected the request for any American soldiers and advocated freedom for India. This had been the stand of President Roosevelt as well. Worse the British economy was bankrupt and they did not have the troops to send to India.

Lord Attlee in a subsequent interview clearly stated that he decided to leave India because of the factor of Subhas Chandra Bose and the fact that the army was no longer to be relied upon. He stated that Gandhi's agitations had minimal effect.

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Last word

The man who had reduced the UK to this state of economic collapse was Adolf Hitler. In death, Hitler saw to it that English victory was bitter. English rule that in 1938 looked good for another 200 years, collapsed inside 2 years after the end of the war. Thus Hitler is not a reviled character in India and the fact that Subhas Chandra Bose who is greatly loved by the Indian people had joined up with the Axis gives the Indians a soft corner for Hitler. Many things have been happening in the country and the Hindu leader Bala Sahib Thackeray of the Shiv Sena was a great admirer of Hitler and kept his photograph in his office. A prominent Cafe was launched in Bombay dedicated to Hitler but the Israeli government took up the case with the Indian government and Israel is an ally of India and the government asked to change its name.

Bollywood was planning a film called "Dear Friend Hitler," an epic about the leader, along with "his insecurities, his charisma, his paranoia, and his genius."Lead actor Anupam Kher jumped off after the Jewish community protested violently. In retrospect, Hitler had an indirect contribution to the freedom of India. He took out the teeth of the British Raj and though England won the war they did not have the teeth to chew.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 02, 2020:

Hitler was not interested in anything but himself. Historians say that India got fringe benefits from the world war.

Vanita Thakkar on October 02, 2020:

Yes, and some new facts are there in your article.

However, about Hitler being a help to India - it is good that he was impressed by some great Indians of those days. Still the fact remains that his focus was on his own motives. He cannot be looked upon as a genuine friend or well-wisher of India.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 02, 2020:

Tom, yes, he also gifted Bhupinder Singh a Maybach car with a Zeppelin engine.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 02, 2020:

Vanita, Thank you for your comment. The question is always, what is the result and who had the greatest effect.

Vanita Thakkar on October 01, 2020:

I wrote about it on reading your article. What historians say is not known since I last read history in secondary school.

However, I have read autobiographies, biographies and biographical documents of freedom fighters. And so, I feel all have played their own significant roles. Each ideology was right in its own way. We have to understand our past, our history, the ideology adopted by our ancestors in the right context.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 01, 2020:

Hi! Greaney, so nice of you to have commented. Yes, so many people have different perceptions.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 01, 2020:

Thank you Vanitha, this is the line of thought of many historians now.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on October 01, 2020:

We only learn about Ireland and European history in our schools. But it's very interesting to read about how other countries have dealt with issues that occurred internally during that time and how they saw only the good of what arose from his reign.

Vanita Thakkar on October 01, 2020:

As we grew up, we read about our freedom fighters who contributed to the Indian freedom struggle - Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Subhash Chandra Bose, Ras Bihari Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Lokmanya Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Chandrashekhar Azad, Rajguru, Udham Singh .... All had their own important roles to play. We have also read and heard about Subhash Chandra Bose and his significant contribution. For us, all our freedom fighters - whether categorized under "Naram" or "Garam" Dal - are revered.

I must say, what you have conveyed is something new and interesting. Hitler's focus was on his own motives. However, Indian freedom struggle got benefitted by his decisions and actions.

Thank you for bringing such facts forth through your article.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 29, 2020:

Mike, your comment is so welcome.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 29, 2020:

Pamela, it so nice of you to have commented.

Readmikenow on September 29, 2020:

Another fascinating article teaching me a perspective I did not know about. Very well done.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 29, 2020:

I can understand why the people of India did not know everything about the nature of Hitler and the hideous things he was capable of doing. Your explanations of India's beliefs regarding Hitler make sense as India's freedom was impacted in a positive manner. This is an interesting article, MG.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 29, 2020:

Yes, this was one of the episodes that forced the British to quit India. All the credit must go to Subhash Chandra Bose and this was acknowledged by Lord Attlee after he left the Prime Ministership on a visit to India in 1955.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 28, 2020:

Thank you Denise for a reasoned comment

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 28, 2020:

I can see your point of view better now. You present your points very well. It still seems it was a combination of all these things including Gandhi and the war that contributed to your independence. We in the US can understand best, having thrown off the British yoke 200 years before.

Blessings,

Denise

tom on September 28, 2020:

signal corps mutiny ,riaf mutiny caused independence ,history of signal corps vk singh admits

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 27, 2020:

Thank you, Anupam for commenting. The point here is the historical effect of the pyrrhic victory of the UK and its effect on Indian independence.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 27, 2020:

Tom, interesting news.

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on September 27, 2020:

Informative article Manohar. People like Hitler are never going to get any sympathy from us. He was a real demon in the face of a human. When I read about the holocausts and the other such tortures either from the diary of Anne Frank or from 'Man's search of meaning' by Victor Frankl or while watching the movie like 'Life is beautiful', I do feel a sense of hatred and just hatred for Nazis or Hitler.

I believe in your words, Hitler might be responsible for the independence of our nation but at what cost?

I don't know whether I can think like you people or not who have devoted much of your time on borders playing with life and death for the sake of your nation, but when I think like a normal individual, I do feel that there might be some other ways too. May be I am sounding absurd and my thoughts are way too ideal, that's not possible in this real world.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 27, 2020:

Flourish, Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, perceptions differ but the effect of England's Pyrrhic victory did lead to the British leaving India. That is the crux of this article.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 26, 2020:

If for a moment Indians believed that Hitler had an ounce of respect or mercy for them they are sadly mistaken. The man had an Aryan dogma that Indians obviously do not fit into. He was a racist meglogmaniac. This was just a case of loving the enemy of one’s enemy. What folly to see roots of it persist today.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 26, 2020:

Tom, thanks for commenting and adding your information. I didn't know about the book by Major General VK Singh but I think I must read it now

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 26, 2020:

Kalpana, thank you for reading and commenting.

Kalpana Iyer from India on September 26, 2020:

This was really interesting. I never knew Hitler's contribution before reading your article. Makes me realize there are always two sides to a story. In this case, about a person. What you keep hearing about someone may not always be the truth for another person. Thanks for sharing.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 25, 2020:

Chitra, thank you.As a student of history I feel I am bound to bring out all facets and hence this article. You know this article grew out of conversations with an RAF officer over Pegs of Chjvas !

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 25, 2020:

Interesting and insightful article.

Your analysis reminds me of my history books. With regard to the Indian freedom struggle, the freedom fighters were categorised as the Moderates, the Extremists, and even the Revolutionaries.

Now, who did this categorisation, can be well understood.

It’s all about perceptions, and the young minds are made to believe, what’s printed in the textbooks. It’s only when you are mature enough, and have a perception of your own, you have a thinking and opinion of your own.

Thank you for sharing.