great piece of history that not many people are aware of is Gandhi’s attempt to stop Hitler’s fascist influence in the West as he knew that nothing good was to be brought by this man into the world. One thing that needs to be clarified before going into a discussion is that the letter was sent before the start of World War Two. This does not mean that Gandhi and the world did not hear about how the Jewish population was treated in Germany under Hitler’s rule.
A great attempt at bringing peace
In order to gain a better understanding of Gandhi’s intentions through this letter, we need to take a closer look at the context of the letter. Even if the letter is short, Gandhi knew exactly what to say with very few words. However, some of you may get a feel that Gandhi, in a way, was writing to a brick wall that simply would not consider a different perspective.
It is difficult for me to even start describing the kindness shown by Gandhi in this letter towards the most hated man in history. The main aim of this letter was to persuade Hitler to maybe think of the outcomes of another World War. It is true that there was no point to ask a maniac about paying a price to declare war on most nations in this world, cause a maniac like Hitler would never consider what can be lost in a war, but only what can be obtained through fascist tactics.
As we see in the letter, Gandhi did not have much intention to write to Hitler as he knew he talking to a brick wall that would not listen, but to make his friends happy, and show that he had at least tried, he wrote this letter.
Special attention should be paid to the line “It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world that can prevent a war” as not only is Gandhi recognizing Hitler’s power, but also trying to show him a different perspective. He tried to show Hitler that he could be a powerful ruler and influence in this world without waging war, but by considering to maybe spread his regime in other Western countries, even if most hypothetical scenarios that would come to mind would end with war.
Nevertheless, what I consider the vital part of this letter is the two questions Gandhi asks:
- “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?”
Asking questions incites a person to think about different perspectives, but the key is in asking the right questions, which Gandhi very well did. The first question is referring to the price that Hitler will pay, as in the risk he is taking by declaring war, as every player within a war has a chance of losing it or at least losing their people.
Then comes the second question which is tries to portray the sort of mentality Gandhi has so that Hitler understands from whom (what kind of person) he is receiving such a question. It may also be to show that Gandhi is an advocate of pacifism at the highest regard. I believe it is not only knowing that humanity has a great deal to suffer from another world war but the fact that the nations he had lived in and felt at heart were in great danger.
Based on all of this we can assume that Gandhi did his homework on the Nazi regime and the sort of compulsive indoctrination it had it’s supporters go through to make a maniac such as Hitler reach such a high level of egoism to the point where he would not care of risking all of Germany (including all of the soldiers and citizens) to be lost in this war.
This once again goes to show that you can be easily influenced by a role you undertake based on the level of regard as well as the type of decisions you get to make.
Did Gandhi’s letter reach Hitler?
It is said that sadly, his letter did not reach Hitler as it was intercepted by the British government that, for some reason, did not want that letter to reach Hitler. It also needs to be mentioned that there was high tension between the Indian government and the British government at the time, as India was fighting to obtain independence.
From here we can only assume that the British were thinking that a relationship between Gandhi and Hitler could be dangerous, even if Gandhi was never after obtaining any sort of power or monetary value from his actions in trying to stop Hitler from declaring war.
Gandhi’s second letter
This is the letter sent by Gandhi after Hitler had already invaded Poland and many central European countries. Here is another effort from the great peacemaker to get Hitler to stop his wrongdoings. Gandhi even said that he could not just sit there whilst this man was tearing apart humanity.
However, Gandhi never knew that his first letter never reached Hitler, but at the same time, he took into consideration that even if the letter had reached him, he would have had no interest in reading it.
In this much longer letter, Gandhi is trying to compare his political and non-violent “war” between India and Great Britain where India is fighting for its own independence. By doing so, Gandhi is once again trying to offer Hitler an alternative. Gandhi also mentions that the world is nobody’s monopoly which was better understood at that time, as saying that today can be argumentative, to say the least (depending from which perspective you see things).
Gandhi also tried to explain to Hitler that even if India was still controlled by Britain at the time, this did not mean they were allies, in the sense of Gandhi being pushed with his reputation as a peacemaker by the British to write to Hitler. Once again, I have to point out the level of politeness Gahndi has towards Hitler, and also when he mentions that to him he isn’t a monster as most of the world describes him.
He goes even further by clarifying that Hitler’s actions may be good in his own eyes, but Gandhi (as most people) have been taught from a young age to regard such actions as acts that are degrading humanity. For that reason, he cannot accept his actions as having a reasonable motive. By doing so, Gandhi is trying to show Hitler that he is not judgmental, but actually wants clarification from Hitler as to why he is declaring war and bringing pain to Europe.
You cannot get more pacificist than that. To emphasize this point, we can look at the part where Gandhi says that he does not want to make foes, but only friends, no matter how bad or evil some of the people he wants to befriend are.
On the other hand, Gandhi is being very clever from a psychological point of view as he is trying to come to “Hitler’s height” by saying that he is being pressured by Britain, however, he is using a non-violent technique that has no defeat. With these words, Gandhi is trying to show that there is an alternative way of fighting those that do not understand your ideology, and what is better is that you have nothing to lose in a non-violent war (compared to an actual World War).
I think that the line which really brings it home is where Gandhi mentions to Hitler that future German generations would not be proud of the legacy Hitler is leaving behind, which is very true. Think just how difficult it is for a person of German nationality to go and visit Auschwitz or such type of historical places that have been affected by their indirect legacy. But, as I have mentioned in my numerous pieces of work, Hitler was selfish, and this selfishness kept on developing as the war went on.
An interesting fact that we can also discover from this second letter is that Gandhi actually met Mussolini, which means that he already knew the way fascists are and how they think from personally meeting one.
It is not exactly known if this second letter actually reached Hitler or if it was intercepted, again, by the British. Once more, even if the letter had reached Hitler I do not think it would have had any sort of impact on him.
I would love to see more perspectives on quotes from the letters or on the letters in general from you in the comment section. Let’s start a fruitful discussion as I would like to hear more opinions, especially on the point if the letters would have affected Hitler in any sort of way if he had read them.
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