Hitler met Bose in 1941 and he agreed to help him achieve his goal of Independence from the English rule.
Adolf Hitler is an enigma. At one stage he was loved and adulated by the German masses. However, after the War he was like a pariah to the Western powers, who made him into the greatest criminal of all time. Perhaps, he did have criminal tendencies, but then many of us have these tendencies. But what we want to understand is whether Hitler did have a role to play in Indian independence.
Bose and Gandhi cross swords
For this, we have to hark back to the period at the outbreak of the War. Subhas Bose, the great Indian nationalist, fell out with Gandhi on the issue of the means of achieving independence. While Bose advocated a strong military approach, Gandhi favored non-violent methods. Though Bose had defeated Gandhi’s nominee in the Congress Presidential poll, he decided to part company from Gandhi and his coterie. It must be mentioned that Bose was arrested 11 times by the British and finally confined to his residence at Calcutta.
The Philosophy of Bose
The philosophy of Bose was clear. He was ready to shake hands with the devil, if it was required to oust the British from India. He was also an able and brave man and escaped from house arrest in Calcutta and headed to Kabul and from there to Moscow and then on to Berlin, which he reached on 3 April 1941. It was a momentous moment in the history of India as Bose set up office in Germany.
There he also loved a German girl and married her and had a daughter. In May 1941 Hitler met Bose and Bose exhorted the Fuhrer to ask his troops to help in the invasion of India. Bose planned as a first step to train 500 Indian soldiers and send them to India to liberate the Indians from British rule.
Bose and the Free India centre
When Bose visited the Indian POW camps and asked for volunteers everyone raised their hands. Thousands of Indians soldiers volunteered. Six months later, with the help of the German foreign ministry, Bose set up “The Free India Centre”. This was the epicenter from where he published propaganda material in the form of leaflets as well as organized broadcasts in support of the cause of Indian Independence.
- Hitler and the Free India Government
By the end of 1941, Hitler’s regime officially recognized his provisional “Free India Government” in exile. In addition Hitler agreed help Chandra Bose to form an army to further his cause. It was to be called “The Free India Legion”. Bose hoped to raise a force of about 100,000 men, which when armed and kitted out by the Germans, could be used to invade British India.
He decided to raise them by going on recruiting visits to Prisoner-of-War camps in Germany. These camps at that time housed tens of thousands of Indian soldiers, who had been captured by Rommel in North Africa.
By August 1942, Bose’s recruitment drive got into full swing. The Indians who joined Bose took part in mass ceremonies, where oaths of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and Bose were recited. The Free India legion fought bravely against the Allies. But once Bose left for Japan and the Far East, the Indian soldiers were left leaderless.
The Indirect Effect of Hitler
After the end of the war, Bose was no longer alive having expired in a plane crash in Formosa. But the soldiers of the Free Legion and the INA (Indian National Army) were put on trial by the British. The results were not what the British had expected, as a seething discontent spread in the regular Indian army regarding the trials and the Royal Indian Navy mutinied. This convinced the English that the time had come for them to leave India. They were certainly not over-awed by the fasts of Gandhi, but the seeds sowed by Bose were the reasons for their decision to leave India.
In hindsight, Hitler certainly had a say in Indian independence. By waging a war against the English, he had so weakened the Imperial power of England that they had perhaps no choice but to leave India. Thus Hitler had an indirect effect on the Independence of India. But we must salute Subhas Bose as a rare Indian, who was the bravest of the brave and deserves to be remembered as a great son of the sub-continent.
- Subhas Chandra Bose: The Springing Tiger by Hugh Toye, Publisher Jaico (1984)