mahatma gandhi and adolf hitler -- 3/29/18
Today's selection -- from Indian Summer by Alex Von Tunzelmann. Gandhi advised the British to give up the fight against Hitler and Mussolini, and advised Jews in Germany to offer passive resistance to the Nazi regime:
"Gandhi's position on nonviolence was absolute. Aggression could never be returned. He did not believe that women should resist rape, but preferred that they should 'defeat' their assailants by remaining passive and silent. Correspondingly, he did not believe that the victims of war should resist attackers by physical force, but rather ought to offer satyagraha -- that is, noncompliance with the invaders. 'If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, war against Germany to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race would be completely justified,' he wrote. 'But I do not believe in any war.'
"He advised the British to give up the fight against Hitler and Mussolini: 'Let them take possession of your beautiful island ... allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.' Furthermore, in one of his most controversial arguments, Gandhi advised the Jews in Germany to offer passive resistance to the Nazi regime -- and to give up their own lives as sacrifices. He told the Jews to pray for Adolf Hitler. 'If even one Jew acted thus,' he wrote, 'he would salve his self respect and leave an example which, if it became infectious, would save the whole of Jewry and leave a rich heritage to mankind besides.'
Gandhi leading the 1930 Salt March, a notable example of Satyagraha.
"Gandhi compounded this error of judgment by offering praise to Hitler. 'I do not consider Herr Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted,' he wrote in May 1940. 'He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed. ' Apparently, he saw some parallel between his own efforts to return India to the Indians and Hitler's invasion of French territory to reclaim that lost to Germany under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War. He regretted that Hitler had employed war rather than nonviolence to achieve his aims, but nonetheless averred that the Germans of the future 'will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more.'
"The American journalist Louis Fischer brought up this subject with Gandhi in 1946. By that time, the concentration camps had been discovered, and the true, awful extent of the Holocaust revealed. It might have been expected that the benefit of hindsight would have tempered the old man's views. It had not. 'Hitler killed five million Jews,' Gandhi told Fischer, 'It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. . . . . As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.' "