What's up with all the Nazi symbols in India? A historian answers

Historians in the News

You wouldn't expect a woman named Savitri Devi to be interred next to George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party. But Devi was no ordinary Hindu.

"Where Savitri Devi really hit the money was after World War II, when neo-Nazism morphed into a globalized form," said British historian Nicholas Goodricke-Clarke. "It was talking about the white races against the colored people of the world, so therefore her globalized view of Aryans uber alles, transcending the limits of German nationalism, gave the post-War neo-Nazi movement an enormous fillip."...

In a curious twist of fate — and ideologies — the weird love affair between a mostly brown nation and the world's most diabolical racist has turned out to be mutual. This week, for instance, Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, the director of a soon-to-be-released Bollywood biopic on Hitler, promised to reveal the Fuhrer's "love for India" (with singing and dancing?).

By all accounts, the film, which is titled "My Friend Hitler" and stars Bollywood stalwart Anupam Kher, is not hagiography, and Kumar, who said that an international release is planned for the film, is obviously courting controversy....

So how did brown people come to love Hitler, and white supremacists come to love a brown country?Devi found a ready audience for her deification of Hitler in wartime Calcutta, Goodricke-Clarke, author of a biography titled "Hitler's Priestess," said in a phone interview. The local population, perhaps ironically, saw the Axis Powers as their future liberators. As Devi was preaching Hitler as Vishnu, Bengali freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose was arranging a meet with the Fuhrer in Berlin and forming his rebellious Indian National Army to fight with the Japanese against India's British colonizers. And Devi herself helped reconcile Hinduism's all-embracing ideology with the Hindu Mission's message of ethnic nationalism. A neo-paganist, she saw in Hindu India the living antecedent for the destroyed Egyptian and Greco-Roman cultures she admired and idealized, according to Goodricke-Clarke. "She related to this idea that the Indo-European people were the ones who came closest to perfection, and she saw Hindu India as the last place in the world that still celebrated the ancient pagan pantheon," the historian said....

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Thomas R. Cox - 6/16/2010

The writer's wonder at a "brown" race embracing Hitler also reflects ignorance of India, where the upper crust doesn't consider itself "brown" but Aryan--or as they sometimes put it, "white"--and looks down its collective nose at the "blacks," predominantly from southern India. Of course, the swastika is as much a Buddhist as a Hindu symbol.

Rodney McCaslin - 6/16/2010

Its hard to tell whose ignorance is on display here, Jason Overdorf's or the composers of the headline to his article (which has nothing to do with Nazi symbols in India). Does Overdorf and/or his headline composer's think that the swastika that appears as a Hindu religious symbol in India is meant to express sympathy with Adolph Hitler and the ideology of Savitri Devi?
Very misleading.