Letter To Hitler

Gandhi_spinning

Picture via Wikipedia

This morning the fabulous @history_pics tweeted a picture of an extraordinary letter. Many thanks to them for this incredible insight.

Of course, many people wrote to Hitler. With hindsight, asking him to call off the dogs was a singularly pointless exercise.

But perhaps it just needed to be said.

And Ghandi said it. In a letter to Adolf Hitler in July 1939, Mahatma Ghandi explained he must make an appeal: for whatever it may be worth. But has history shown it to be worthless?

It is a seminal phrase: “It is quite clear,” he wrote, “that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state.” He asks Hitler whether he is willing to pay this, in Ghandi’s eyes the ultimate and most terrible price.

But you see, Brother Ghandi, Hitler mechanised the savage state.

He made a production line – or perhaps we should call it a destruction line – to do the most savage acts possible. He even automated death and its precedents.

So was it pointless, a foolish move, to put a plea in the way of a monster incapable of mercy?

I’d argue not. Perhaps this had to be said. Even the monstrous need to watch the barriers as they pass them, if only so they will understand what they scorned when they arrive at the gates of the underworld.

We accord every human being the right to avert the savage state.

And this letter is testament to that.

With thanks to @history_pics for this, from a tweet this morning (14.12.13)

With thanks to @history_pics for this, from a tweet this morning (14.12.13)

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36 thoughts on “Letter To Hitler

  1. Such simplicity from a man who excelled at it.
    was it a waste? I don’t think so somehow. Every geature of humanity adds to the sum, just as each evil act adds to the sum

  2. This was another opportunity for Hitler to reflect on the course he was following, and to reconsider. It is another massive black blot plonked against his name by the Recording Angel that he chose to ignore it.
    And, being fanciful, perhaps the minute or so he took to read it and mutter, ‘Das ist der rubbisch!’ resulted then or later in something being delayed or overlooked which would have added to the torrent of evil?

  3. Gandhi was right about so many things, and even right to suspect that his letter could not stop what Hitler had started. A sad moment in time for all the world.

      1. A very dark time in history. Many of us here in the states are related to refuges or veterans, people who lost family members in war, people whose families were exterminated, people whose family members endured forced sterilization. Generations that still don’t feel entirely safe.

  4. What a letter to read. Thank you Kate and thank historypics. It makes me want to think about to whom do we write now? And what? What is dehumanising today – because I do think there are people driven into desperation and others who are part of the machine that drives them. It just does not seem so clear as we do not have the hindsight.

    1. Humility was always Ghandi’s stance, Nancy. Perhaps angering a man like this was an extremely dangerous thing to do. One would not like to attract too much attention to a country on which Hitler had not yet set his sights.
      Oh, to wind back the clock and watch what the undercurrents were at the time.

      1. I had similar thoughts when considering the letter ~ rather like the pacifist writing the schoolyard bully while hoping not to attract undesired attention.

  5. Fascinating, and disturbing. And I agree with elspethc that we ought to think long and hard about who would be the recipient of such a letter today. That’s the truly troubling question.

  6. This is stunning. There’s so much to know that can’t be known. Did Gandhi anticipate the message would probably be rebuked or did he have a real sense of hope? Did he treat Hitler with such respectful tones because he knew that any other “voice” would fuel to the fire? This is an amazing letter, I think. Thank you for choosing it to share. It really inspires a lot of questions, which I love.

  7. Mmm – the letter seems rather obsequious to me. Ghandi was an interesting character, and, it appears, not always in a positive way. I recently saw a documentary about the way he interacted with his wife and family. If it’s to be believed, then he was a rather strangely cruel and selfish man.

    1. I must get hold of a biography and read, BB. Great and charismatic leaders often have a side the public don’t see. Wasn’t Hitler kind to animals and vegetarian?
      To me it seems Hitler was a predator. The wrong letter form the wrong person might attract attention from a man with a taste for annexation. Someone who meditates regularly and was tapped into the ‘spiritual grid’ could – if one believes in such things – have his measure, even without knowledge of subsequent events. To communicate with Adolf Hitler must surely require treading on eggshells.

  8. Chilling, especially as Ghandi closes his letter as “I remain, Your sincere friend.” I understand why he would write that and, given the date, why he might think the reference could be well -received. Indeed, this effort was not wasted. It is never wasted; as you say: “Even the monstrous need to watch the barriers as they pass them, if only so they will understand what they scorned when they arrive at the gates of the underworld.” The monstrous know what they do, but if we call them on it, at least then they can’t say we were complicit.

  9. Imagine what might have happened if everyone sent such a letter to Hitler. I did not know of this letter from Gandhi, Kate, though it doesn’t surprise, knowing what bits and pieces I know about this great man.

  10. I didn’t know of this letter – in fact, never contemplated that one might exist. Dear Friend. wow, this is heady stuff to contemplate as simple as the request is.

  11. I admire Gandhi and his peaceful attempt to persuade a monster to change. They both left their mark on history: Gandhi as a peace maker who worked to end the inequality he saw. Hitler as a mass murderer who left a swath of pain wherever he went.

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