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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ghandi's letters to Hitler

It was common knowlege Poland was oppressing Jewish and German minorities in Poland, and Gandhi spoke out against all activities dehumanizing to people. When Hitler threatened to take a firmer stance against Poland, few were surprised, though Ghandi wrote the fuhrer and recommened non violent action. One method, he suggested, might be to encourage Poland to change its ways of dealing with minorities.

The first letter was written in 1939, there was still hope for peaceful solutions to problems in Europe. Ghandi knew Hitler was in favor of the British Empire and, as a Hindu Indian, Hitler would look down on Ghandi.

Critics have denounced Ghandi for starting letters to Hitler with the greeting "my freind."
I can't. Face it had he started the letter with "Hey butthead," it is unlikely to have been read. An excerpt of one letter shows Ghandi treaded lightly:

"Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence." He follwed with:
It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?"

At least he tried.

The smell of war was in the air dispelling any concern Ghandi might have had, so the first letter was written, ending with:
"Anyway I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you. I remain, Your sincere friend, Sd. M. MK Gandhi".

In light of Hitler's attitude, this attempt on Ghandi's part was very brave, despite what critics say. Even as early as 1939, there was evidence of Nazi willingness to act with aggression.

Hitler supported the British empire and offered a solution to the problem of the Indian National Congress. He recommended assassination of Gandhi, and if that isn't enough then kill the other leaders too, if that isn't enough then two hundred more activists, and so on until the Indian people will give up the hope of independence.

If Gandhi was unaware of Hitler's advice, he knew the Nazi attitude toward non-aryans. True to his character, Gandhi remained friendly towards his own would-be killer.

A year later, he took off the kid gloves. Ghandi followed the vatican in denouncing the Nazi's with this letter:

But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in human friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity."

Though England was considered an enemy to India, Ghandi,Unlike many of his countrymen, rejected the idea of achieving freedom from British rule with German help:

"We know what the British heel means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end the British rule with German aid." Instead, Gandhi explained to Hitler, the non-violent method could defeat "a combination of all the most violent forces in the world".
some consider Ghandi weak for his passion about peace. He would not exchange one bully for another. In his mind, one oppressor was the same as the next.

In Gandhi's view, a violent winner is bound to be defeated by superior force in the end, and even the memory of his victory will be tainted by its violent nature: "If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud"

Ghandi couldn't stop WW2, though critics may still view him as weak, his methods ineffective. I have to respect a voice of sanity.


Amy DeTrempe said...

Loved the post. I wish there were more Ghandis in the world.

Jen Childers said...

everyone agrees war is Hell but there is no shortage of excuses for getting into another one.
take care,