That Time When Gandhi and Hitler Were Penpals

Remember when Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler had a short and one-sided correspondence in 1939 and 1940?  Probably not, but it’s remarkable nonetheless.  The first letter was a brief note from Gandhi to Hitler a few months before the invasion of Poland saying basically–and I’m paraphrasing here–“You sure about this whole WWII thing, dude?”

The second, longer letter is interesting in that Gandhi makes it clear that he, like Hitler, is no fan of the British Empire, going so far as to call it “the most organized violence in the world” (no small claim in December 1940, with both Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union in their prime).  But Gandhi tempers his “Hey, I get it, I hate the British too, man!” appeal with a strong endorsement of non-violence, and ultimately sounds prophetic when he writes:

We [Indians] have found in non-violence a force which, if organized, can without doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in the world.  In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat.  It is all “do or die” without killing or hurting.  It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection.  It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon.  You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud.

Apparently neither letter actually reached Hitler, but still, I’m going to have to call this exchange as Gandhi 2, Hitler 0.

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