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Subhas Chandra Bose, Indian Wartime Leader in Germany During the War Years 1941-43

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.



Subhas Bose is a man who is greatly loved by the Indian people. He was an intellectual of the highest order. He had joined the Congress party with a view to fighting for Indian independence. Bose had earlier resigned a prestigious job in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) to join the movement of Gandhi. However while in the Congress party he realized that Gandhi could not dislodge British rule by his non-violent and pacifist approach. He propagated the view that a more militant approach was needed to throw the British out.

These views brought him into direct confrontation with Gandhi and Bose was made to feel like an outcast. However he had popular support and in the 1938 session of the Congress party, he contested against the nominee of Gandhi for the post of party president. Gandhi made it clear that a defeat of his candidate Pattibiraman was his defeat.

The results shocked Gandhi as Bose won by a huge majority and became Congress party President. Gandhi and other Congress leaders like Nehru and Patel sided against Bose and declared “non-cooperation" with Bose.Gandhi refused to speak to Bose, as he felt humiliated.

An angry Bose resigned from the Congress party. Outside he formed his own group called the Forward Bloc. His speeches urging a revolt against British rule led to his arrest in 1939. He was interred in his house in Calcutta.

Bose made a daring plan to escape from Calcutta and in 1940 he escaped in disguise. He traveled to Lahore and on to the North West frontier and reached Kabul. Some agents from Russia met him there and helped him move to Russia. He reached Moscow, but there is no record he had any meeting with Stalin. The Russian Government which at that time was an ally of Germany allowed him to go to Berlin. He traveled by train to Germany and reached Berlin in April 1941.

Bose addresing a meeting in Germany

Bose addresing a meeting in Germany

Bose with India legion troops

Bose with India legion troops

Bose Meets Hitler and Organization of India League

Bose was initially given a low key welcome in Berlin. He was put up in a comfortable hotel with a telephone. Initially, he had access only to senior officials of the foreign ministry, but he did meet Von Ribbentrop and asked that a government in exile be set up and it is recognized by Germany. Ribbentrop was cool to this proposal, but the Germans gave a free hand to Bose and started giving him a monthly allowance of 12,000 Reich marks for his personal expenses, as well as a loan of ten million Reich marks to set up the " India Centre" in Berlin.

Bose also attended many meetings in the foreign ministry and was allowed a great deal of freedom. His request for a meeting with Hitler was not accepted immediately and he was asked to submit a proposal as to how he could help in the 'liberation" of India.

Bose duly submitted his proposal that included talking to Indian POWs in Italy, who had been captured in the desert campaign in North Africa. Bose made contact with the POW camps and talked to the POW to join the India legion with a view to liberating India.

He had lukewarm support from the POWs and only about 500 opted to join the India league. However, over a period of time, this number swelled to 3500. Bose planned to use these troops to free India.

In the meantime on 22nd June Hitler invaded Russia. Bose was against the Russian invasion and warned Ribbentrop about it. He wanted the British Empire to be defeated first and then Russia is sorted out. But some plans of the Germans leaked to him and he learned that Hitler had an ambitious plan to overrun Russia and then enter India from Afghanistan. It was a hair-brained scheme and bound to fail.

After a year Bose finally had a 45-minute meeting with Hitler in May 1942. Hitler was in an expansive mood as he thought he had won the war. He was also well briefed about the situation in India. From all accounts, this meeting was a one-way monologue by Hitler in which he spelled out his plans. He promised that Bose would be included when German troops set foot in India.

Bose was extremely dissatisfied by this meeting and one wonders what he thought after meeting Hitler.


The Last Year of Bose in Germany

Bose while in Germany fell in love with a German girl named Emilie Schenki. He had one daughter from her. Bose took her for a holiday when he learned of the Russian invasion. Emilie was working as his secretary. She was born in 1910 and passed away in 1996. She never married again and lived her life as a recluse.

As the campaign in Russia got bogged down, Hitler lost interest in an Indian invasion.

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At that time the Japanese had struck across South East Asia and Bose thought it better to go and join the Japanese as he would be closer to home and could organize the battle better along with the Japanese. In April 1943 after secret communications between Tokyo and Berlin, it was decided to shift Bose to the Far East and Japan.

In May 1943 Bose left Germany in a German U boat for a voyage across the Atlantic and Cape of Good Hope to Japan. He left behind his daughter and wife and never met them again.

Last Word

In retrospect the 2 years Bose spent in Germany did not yield what he expected. After 1942, the Germans were on the defensive. The Indian public had however romantic notions of Bose as a man who achieved a lot. In practical terms, his sojourn in Germany did not yield much but in the end, he had a great stamp on the freedom of India. Lord Clement Attlee the British prime minister was of the view that the impact of Bose heralded Indian independence and Gandhi had no role.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 07, 2021:

E Randall, its a pleasure that you commented

E Randall from United States on June 07, 2021:

Great information, thank you for writing this.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 07, 2021:

John, thanks for sparing time and commenting.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 07, 2021:

A very interesting article, MG. Thanks for sharing a small piece of history I knew nothing about.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 07, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, my view is Bose died in the air crash in 1945. The ashes kept in the temple at Tokyo are of Bose and the Indian government and the Bose family can easily verify the truth by a DNA test but nobody wants to do it. Rest is all speculation

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 07, 2021:

Thank you, Vidya, your comment is welcome. Bose was the tallest leader of the freedom struggle but sadly not much is known about him outside India, this is because of the Congress government that blacked out the deeds of BOSE. It was only Sir Attlee who set the record straight.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 07, 2021:

Rawan, thank you for commenting. Yes, his life is most inyeresting.

Rawan Osama from Egypt on June 06, 2021:

Informative and interesting !!

VIDYA D SAGAR on June 06, 2021:

A very interesting article Emgee. Subhash Chandra Bose was no doubt a great patriot and freedom fighter. He advocated different methods to gain feedom as he did not believe in Gandhiji's theory of non violence. But there's no denying the fact that he dedicated his life for the freedom of the country and is undoubtedly a great leader in the freedom struggle. Thanks for sharing.

tom on June 06, 2021:

indian legion bde 3500 tps not 35ooo,please read rudolf hartogs book the sign of the tiger,1942 pic bose and hitler with adam von trott,bose repaid german loans ..u boat cdr werner musenberg took bose,stalin refused ayslum,some say bose died in siberian gulag ,check kgb archives,indian army became nationalist only due to bose,few people know his brother sarat chandra ,famous lawyer.patel ,nehru betrayed bose.ina trasure emblezzed

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 06, 2021:

Dear Col, thank you very much for your comment. You are right that Atlee has correctly mentioned that the main person who won the freedom for India was Bose and not Gandhi. Unfortunately, the Congress government negated the role of Bose in the freedom struggle. Bose indeed had a very romantic life in Germany and I will write about it in a subsequent article.

Lt Col Parduman singh on June 06, 2021:

It's a nice article about the forgotten chapter in the life of Subhas Chandra Bose. I am glad you have brought out the opinion of Lord Atlee that the main instrument or engine for Indian independence was not Gandhi but Bose. However, you could have elucidated a little more on the love life of the leader in Germany.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 29, 2015:

Manatita, Bose was a great leader of the freedom movement

I am however only referring to his 2 year stint on Germany. Thank you for your comment

manatita44 from london on November 29, 2015:

Well, if it's the same Bose I know "Netaji" then he was not a failure. He was and still is a great Patriot well loved by the Indian people. He was killed in a mysterious way, and so we can say that his mission was short-lived, perhaps.

He saw the freedom of India in a very different way from Gandhi, and, influenced by the great Soul's Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, pursued the one Nation stand for India. Alas ! ...

He was a great patriot and Freedom Fighter.

Your Hub was well-presented and flowed well. Some historic pictures also.

Note: Sorry for two comments. Delete the first.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 29, 2015:

Interesting and informative. You have taught me lots from a well-presented hub.

manatita44 from london on November 28, 2015:

Well, if it's the same Bose I know "Netaji" then he was not a failure. He was and still is a great Patriot well loved by the Indian people. He was killed in a mysterious way, and so we can say that his mission was short-lived, perhaps.

He saw the freedom of India in a very different way from Gandhi, and, influenced by the great Soul's Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, pursued the one Nation stand for India. Alas ! ...

He was a great patriot and freedom fighter.

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