Subhash Chandra Bose was a fascist

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The "Berlin Illustrated Night Edition" headlined on June 19, 1943: "After the surprising arrival in Japan: Bose on the decisive turning point in the Indian people's struggle for freedom". But this could not be surprising, especially for German newspapers. Subhas Chandra Bose came to Berlin via Kabul and Moscow in 1941 to find support for the Indian liberation struggle from the enemies of his enemies (the British colonial rulers). To this end, the comrade-in-arms of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru (Bose was President of the Congress Party in 1938 and 1939) was prepared to make a pact with the devil himself. Since Moscow refused any support, he wanted to use the German Nazis for his goals, although he rejected their racism.

Although the Nazi leadership refused to guarantee India's independence, it supported the establishment of the Free India Center and the anti-British radio station "Radio Azad Hind" (Sender Free India) in Berlin. In addition, Bose - called "Netaji" (for example: boss, leader) by his followers - was able to set up a troop devoted to him in Annaburg near Torgau and Königsbrück in 1942, about whose formation and end Lothar Günther in his recently published book "From India to Annaburg "Conveys a lot of new things. Of the approximately 15,000 Indian prisoners of war who fell into the hands of the Axis powers in Europe, 3,500 declared themselves ready to join the Indian Legion - often after Bose's spectacular appearances in prison camps.

According to Bose's ideas, the troops should become the nucleus of an India freed from religious, ethnic and caste differences. "Bose," said Günther, "consistently liquidated any strict division into ethnic, religious and caste groups, as was customary in the British-Indian army." From the descriptions of former legionaries and Annaburg residents - whereby Günther also relies on research by the hobby researcher Volker Kummer - a vivid picture of the everyday life of Bose followers emerges. While they were struggling with nutrition, the service was set up so that Muslims could bow their heads to Mecca five times a day, and Hindus and Sikhs could practice their religion as well. Günther reports on the work of the German interpreters that they contributed to the "often warm contact with the German population" - "a highly remarkable process in times of fascist racial madness".

But the four battalions of the Legion - unlike Bose himself - were to take to the field during the war not in South Asia, but on the Western Front against their colonial masters. For many months they guarded the Atlantic coast near Bordeaux. After the defeat of fascism, the British took them to a prison camp near Delhi as deserters and, like the captured soldiers, were interrogated and in some cases charged by Bose's Indian National Army - the trials in the Delhier Red Fort, with which the British wanted to delegitimize the freedom movement, reached however, the opposite.

Bose had already set out for Japan in February 1943 on board a Nazi submarine. What Bose only hinted at in June of the same year in Tokyo: In those days, primarily with funds from Indians abroad, the Indian National Army, comprising up to 40,000 men (including women's battalions), was formed and advanced on India together with the Japanese. Bose's headquarters were in Rangoon, where he also met Ho Chi Minh, and on the Indian Andaman Islands. But with the defeat of the Japanese, Bose was also defeated. Immediately after Japan surrendered, he was killed in a plane crash in Taiwan.

Günther, who has already published several papers on the history of German-Indian relations, has tried again to fill a gap. A comprehensive biography of Bose is still pending. At least since the celebrations for Bose's 100th birthday in 1997, he has also been officially honored as a freedom hero in India.

And when an Indian state guest comes to Germany today, he usually does not fail to visit Bose's daughter Prof. Anita Pfaff, who in an ND interview emphasized the statement: "My father was not a fascist." India's Prime Minister Vajpayee also did not leave on his recent visit to Germany before meeting the Bose daughter who lives in Augsburg.

Book tip

Lothar Günther, From India to Annaburg - Indian Legion and Prisoners of War in Germany, Verlag am park, Berlin 2003, 144 pages, 12.90 euros.

Source: The text was published on July 16, 2003 in the daily newspaper Neues Deutschland.