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Understanding Hitler in India

Behind the Hitler-themed controversies in India

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Mein Kampf in India(Fox News)

The Indian Express is reporting a story today involving a men’s garment store in Ahmedabad, India, and Hitler. What do the two have in common? Well, the store is named after Hitler and the Jewish community there is not pleased about it. According to the article, ten or twelve members of the community went to visit the store’s owner to persuade him to change the name.

“It was a friendly meeting. We tried to convince Rajeshbhai (Rajesh Shah) to change the name of his store, but he refused. He, however, said he does not mind changing the Nazi Swastika on the board in front of his store to a Hindu swastika,” said Menasseh Solomon, secretary of the Magen Abraham Synagogue in Ahmedabad’s Khamasa neighbourhood.

“He (Rajesh) said his concept was never to hurt the community, and he feigned ignorance about Hitler… But after we left, we began to believe that he may have been aware about all this and was just pretending to be ignorant,” he added.

The word is that the owner is not willing to change the name because of the expenses incurred while printing business cards and registering the business.

I immediately distrusted my knee-jerk reactions to this story and so to shed some light on this situation, I dropped the writer and documentary filmmaker Sadia Shepard a line. Shepard went to India in the days following September 11th on a Fulbright scholarship and lived among the Bene Israel Jewish community, a community of which her grandmother was a member. She made a film and wrote a fantastic book about her year there. It reveals the practice and culture of a Jewish community that few people seem know about and gives invaluable context to stories like the one we’re hearing about today. (Shepard was also featured on Vox Tablet back in 2008.)

She emphasized the following ideas:

The story of the Jews of India has been almost entirely one of peaceful assimilation. As she points out (and experienced), Jewish populations in India have rarely, if ever, encountered violence at the hands of the state, dating back to British rule. Owing to this history, the 2008 attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai struck a particularly devastating tenor because it was the first attack of its kind on the Jewish population.

Shepard also signaled that the location in question–the state of Gujarat–was particularly relevant to the story because it has recently been a venue for anti-Muslim race riots, including a 2002 conflagration that killed nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. An interesting aside: Gandhi was also from this region.

She suggests that a fascination with Hitler may persist because they are some parts of the population that have found parallels between Hitler’s view of racial purity and the desire of some to have a state that is entirely Hindu, a desire that was nurtured by the British before the partition of India and Pakistan and has relevance to the caste system.

As a parallel to this story, in 2009 there was a controversy centering on the use of Hitler’s infamous anti-Semitic screed Mein Kampf, not only among right-wing nationalist political leaders, but also, bizarrely enough, among Indian business students who dispassionately view the book as the diary of an extremely effective manager (perhaps because both the color of all of Hitler’s parachutes and the person standing accused of moving his cheese were already predetermined).

Even if this story doesn’t have the immediate or conventional timbre of the anti-Semitism to which we’ve grown accused, obviously it’s never a good thing when Hitler’s ideas, name, or managerial imago are invoked by anyone.

Related: The Third Way [Tablet Magazine]
Jewish group urges Hitler owner to change shop’s name [Indian Express]
Divide and Rule [The Economist]
Indian business students snap up copies of ‘Mein Kampf’ [Guardian]

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This
is a classic example of mindlessness. Another bigger example is names
in Northeastern, India. When the tribals converted to Christianity in
1940s, the new converts quickly adopted western names and many babies
born in 1940s were named after WW2 European and American leaders. For
several decades, many, Adolf Hitlers and Winston Churchills, were
Congressmen in Mizoram and Meghalaya Legislative assembly. In 2008
election, Adolf Lu Hitler R Marak became congressman beating his
nearest rival Frankenstein
Momin.

Winston
Churchill’s policy and orders starved about 3 million Indians to
death. He also referred to Indians as beastly people with beastly
religion, Hindus are a foul race protected by their rapid breeding
from “the doom that is their due.” He wished Arthur Harris, the
head of British bomber command, could “send some of his surplus
bombers to destroy them.”(reference: Churchill’s Secret War)

One
of the most prominent road in New Delhi is Aurengzeb Road in honor of
Muslim emperor Aurengzeb. Three billionaires have home on that road.
Aurengzeb ordered killing of ninth sikh guru ( equivalent to prophet)
Tegbahadur, Destruction of hundreds of Hindu temple including the
most sacred site at Kashi, Sri Krishna birthplace temple, and
Somnath. Imposing discriminatory Jazia tax on Hindus, 1st mass exodus
of Hindu Pandits from Kashmir, and forcible conversion of thousands
of Hindus. Aurengzeb built mosque is still standing on the 2 sacred
sites.

The
truth is that Hitler Cloth Store,Churchill Food Marts found at
several places in UK and USA, and Aurengzeb Road are offensive. All
three must be renamed

AlgorithmicAnalyst says:

One point, is that just because one reads a book, doesn’t mean that one agrees with it. I learned that the hard way, some librarians were surprised by some books I checked out, thinking it meant I agreed with the authors. ‘Mein Kampf’ should be read critically, it is full of instructive errors in logic.

Majority of the western and third world countrymen have not had the full history of Hitler’s evil deeds. Only a few know about the Italian killings, none know of the African tribe genocides-well before the jews! Many think it was just the Jews. AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM! PEOPLE MUST BE EDUCATED ABOUT THE ATROCITIES THIS MADMAN COMMITTED AGAINST ALL RACES, SO THAT THEY WILL UNDERSTAND HIS WAS NOT AN IDEOLOGY ANY DECENT PERSON WOULD WANT TO BE CONNECTED WITH! AND TO THE INDIAN WHO OWNS THIS SHOP, NAZIS WOULD ALLOW YOU TO PEDDLE THEIR MESSAGE, AND THEN THEY WOULD EXTERMINATE YOU TOO, COS YOU ARE NOT ARYAN RACE JACKASS?! Right now neo-nazis are laughing at the dumb Indian!

This article shows the utter lack of knowledge about Hinduism and India on your part.

bennyhin says:

I am South Indian by Origin. The Indians do not have any anti Semetic Feelings. Most of them do not even know who is Adolf Hitler. The Swastika is a Symbol used in Tantric Hinduism and it predates Hitler ( Hitler borrowed it and gave it a bad name, but it was not meant to be bad). Muslims extremist may have a dislike for Jews but the majority of India’s Muslims are not extremist. If there are attacks on Jewish Interest in India, it is very likely to be initiated from Pakistan the Mother of all Muslim Jihadis. By the way I urge you Jews to come to Kerala and Visit a 500 year old Synagogue there. Its kept in a very good condition, though not being a person of Judaism i have entered and knelt and prayed there in the Synagogue during its visiting hours.

snow says:

As a south Indian this is disgusting. I know where I am from no one is anti Semitic. Jewish people came to India to escape persecution. However, India is a very big country and hardly anything is policed. Many of the Indian youth are obviously under educated and they have been taught that the British were their enemies, understandably to some extent. The British did do bad things however get over it. Hating a race of people is what starts horrible things like the Holocaust. Yet because these morons think Hitler didn’t do anything bad to India but the British did..,I am disgusted by Hitler being anywhere in India. Do they not realize the Gypsies Hitler killed are Indian descent? Nobody is stopping the country from prospering now yet things are still backwards. The British may have done bad things but if the Jewish communities could rise after Hitler and Stalin what is stopping Indians? People may take your wealth but they can’t take your morals or humanity yet they seem to blame the British for everything.

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Understanding Hitler in India

Behind the Hitler-themed controversies in India

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