Adolf Hitler in Perspective
Adolf Hitler is a much reviled character in the West. He is accused of having unleashed the greatest war in world history. He is also accused of despicable acts like setting up gas chambers for execution of Jews and following racial policies that went against the ethos of society. But most western writers do not dwell on the fact that Hitler came to power on the back of mass support and in a democratic election. He is generally reviled and any good that may have been done by him is negated or just given a passing reference.
In the East and India Hitler is not so distasteful to the people. The Shiv Sena Leader Bala Sahib Thackeray openly admired him and many Indians even now secretly feel that Hitler was after all not such a bad phenomena. So much so that a café ‘ Hitler’s café’ opened in Bombay some time back, replete with photos of Hitler on its walls and a large Nazi swastika mural outside to entice customers.
Even during the war when India was a slave nation, Indians secretly listened to Nazi radio broadcasts, which were banned by the British and prayed for the success of Hitler. One reason for this was that Indians hoped that a German victory would bring freedom to India and the British would be forced to go.
Hitler and Indians
The Germans lost the war, but for the British empire it was a Pyrrhic victory and Great Britain was so weakened that it could not hold on to its Indian empire. During the war years a great India leader Subhas Chandra Bose a rival of Gandhi sided with Hitler. His philosophy was clear. He was ready to shake hands with the devil himself in case it helped oust the British from India. Bose escaped from house arrest in Calcutta and by an adventurous route passing through Kabul and Moscow reached Berlin on 3 April 1941.
The transit to Germany was facilitated by Stalin, who had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler. Bose organized the ‘Free India Center’ in Berlin and had a momentous meeting with Hitler. He also agreed to set up a ‘Free India Legion’ to fight along with the Wehermacht, from captured Indian army POWs from North Africa. By end of 1941 Hitler’s Germany officially recognized the ‘Free India Government’ in exile. These developments stunned the British who have down played these stupendous incidents in world history.
Did Hitler Hasten Indian Independence ?
In Indian minds, Hitler is thus not the villain he appears in the west. In fact a Mumbai film producer is planning a film on Hitler’s connection with Indian Independence. Historians in India and the east now in hindsight feel that Hitler actually hastened Indian Independence. The war sapped the British and the USA emerged as the dominant world power. Most Americans wanted a free India and even Roosevelt had sounded Churchill on this matter.
The war made the British weak and the news that thousands of British Indian soldiers had defected to the Axis during the war, made them realize that the instrument through which they controlled India, the Army was no longer loyal to them. There was also a mutiny by the Royal Indian Navy in 1946 and the British knew their days in India were over.
The British were not overawed by the fasts of Gandhi, but the seeds sowed by Bose were the reasons for the decision of the English to leave India. In hindsight Hitler certainly had a say in Indian independence. The Second World War insured the weakening of the British hold over India and unleashed forces that the British could not control. Hitler by his actions in starting a World War in reality hastened Indian Independence. What if the war had not taken place? There is every chance that Indian’s would still be singing "God Save the Queen”. That is a sobering thought. Hitler will thus never be regarded with disdain in India.