Some months back, maybe during my second month in India, I had a discussion with three people of the higher leaders of my office. They had read an article in a local magazine about Hitler and were talking about it. I quickly realised that the article, which unfortunately I couldn’t read myself because it was in Gujarati, was highlighting Hitler as an admirable person. Quite surprised of this fact I was eager to join the discussion. Soon I understood that my colleagues were all defending the point of the article, that Hitler actually wasn’t such a bad guy but that he had been treated very badly in his childhood and youth, which made him commit some cruel acts. On the contrary, he was described as a great leader which in spite of these bad experiences was able to lead a whole country and fight against those mean countries aggressing him from all sides. I couldn’t believe my ears. Even less I could believe that I wasn’t able at all to convince those three leaders that not every person with a difficult childhood turns insane and gets millions of people killed. A bit disturbed by that whole conversation I turned back to my desk and forgot about it.
Some weeks later I moved into my new flat and when I looked at the lock of our door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not because the look is hung on the door from the outside to close the apartment and therefore you can get locked in if your flat-mate doesn't notice that you are still sleeping. No, the true surprise was the logo. The brand was “HITLER Star” and a little sticker “Hitler tested ok” should prove the high quality of the lock. So, now Hitler was not only privileged of an admiring pity but his name was also standing for quality and security.
Starting to wonder a bit, I took the opportunity to talk on that topic whenever there was a chance. You’ll hear things like “he was an extraordinary man and leader” or “I really admire the power he had” or “sure, he killed many, this is bad, but he actually was able to lead a great country to its deserved grandeur” etc. I realized that people admire Hitler for his strong leadership, despite his insaneness. They are very aware that he killed millions but just seem to neglect it when talking about him. Maybe it’s because there are one billion of people in this country. Maybe it's because I live in a small conservative city here in Baroda. Maybe it’s because they feel proud that a European Leader took Indian symbols for his ideology. The “swastika” is an Indian symbol for good luck which you will find on the door of every house and in every temple. “Aryan” comes from Sanskrit and refers to the speaker of Indian languages. Maybe it is just because this is what is being taught in the history book of every Indian child in school. You’ll be able to find “Mein Kampf” in every bookstore in India; even the smallest airport bookstore would have it. Many people have told me that they have or would really want to read that book.
So now, it doesn’t surprise me anymore when I see a guy passing me on a bicycle with a T-shirt with a Swastika design and a slogan saying “SS – German power”. But what did shock me today when I was talking to a dear friend of mine is that husbands call their wife Hitler to show that she’s the boss in the house. “Let me check with Hitler if I can join you for the cricket match on Sunday”
What can I say more… surprising, shocking, absurdly incomprehensible!!!
One good news at the end: a dear friend of mine today told me that he saw the WW2 movie "Inglorious Bastards" and was totally shocked to see in pictures what Hitler actually did. Admiration turned into anger and interest to know the "real story". ...maybe reason just takes some more time to come to India in those terms.