By reading autobiographies of Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler one only highlights the glaring contrast between the two books as well as the two personalities. Gandhi was the personification of kindness and humanity. Hitler was a living monster. Gandhi achieved the exemplary feat of freeing this sub-continent from the mighty British Empire through peaceful means while Hitler became the cause of killing more than fifty lacks innocent men, women and children. The famous idiom says that the sun never sat down in the British Empire. The 'naked fakir' shook the mightiest empire of his day by fasting and praying. Gandhi loved humanity. He encouraged women and girls to fully realize their potential. He fought relentlessly for the cause of dalits and all forsaken people. His name evokes deep respect, love and devotion in countless hearts all over the world. Hitler's name universally evokes repulsion and fear. The dictionary does not have such cruel words as may describe Hitler correctly. He was a psychopath. He was a maniac. He was perverse. He was a murderer. Yet all these words are insufficient to describe the devilishness of Adolf Hitler.
The model is open for humanity. If humanity and human race have to survive, Gandhi's path becomes inevitable. There is no alternative to kindness, co-operation and co-existence. Hitler’s model will only lead to destruction and further destruction. Gandhi even triumphed in his death. Robert Payne says, "For Gandhi this death was a triumph. He died as the kings do, felled at the height of their powers." Socrates, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi -many great people have martyred. But their ideas and their spirit never die.
When we try to answer the question as to how one human being can be a Mahatma like Gandhi and the other a monster like Hitler, we have to analyze nature of psychological diseases as well as the importance of cultural and domestic background in building an individual's personality. We have to understand that both Gandhi and Hitler were products of their separate cultures. Only India and her pious spirit could have produced a Mahatma like Gandhi. The role of Gandhi's mother in giving human values to him was paramount. Gandhi did not witness anything like domestic violence as a child. His mind rested on a firm footage. Like all Indians, he did not have to bother about domestic shelter and security. A strong family makes a strong person. The Indian atmosphere is soaked in religious spirit. It was more so in Gandhi's times. Religion was another building block of the Mahatma's personality; India is the other name of absorbing inputs from all sides. Elasticity and flexibility are the prominent features of the Indian spirit. Gandhi completely embodied this spirit. Gandhiji's greatness as an individual lies in his persistence of his views. His greatness lies in the fact that he never abandoned his ideas. He once said that if evil is so firm in its evil ways, why should we leave our goodness; we have the better thing with us.
Hitler was a direct product of a civilization based on aggression. His parents bitterly fought with each other. He had no mental rest and security as a child. Both in artistic and academic fields, he failed bitterly. He belonged to a culture that accepted violence as a valid tool to bring social change. We may also point out that Hilter had schizophrenic genes.
History played a key role in the lives of these two individuals. One tends to believe in fate as one goes through the lives of these two individuals. Situations provided a rich opportunity to Gandhi to experiment with his ideas. Situations also provided an open path to Adolf Hitler to grasp military and political power in Germany. Things happened because they had to happen.
The major contrast between the Mahatma and Hitler comes from their style of demanding. Gandhi demanded truth through peaceful means. The only person that he punished was he himself with his fasting. Gandhi propagated peaceful disobedience. His method was to underline the correct thing. The result of his methods was that the opponents understood the justification of his demands. His whole idea was based on the goodness of human nature. He evoked and appealed to the goodness of his opponents. He believed that no person is his personal opponent. The wrong thinking and the wrong practices of the opponent were his enemies. Therefore, he targeted the actual enemy and not any person. His fight was against colonialism, poverty, ignorance, evil practices, discrimination, social inequality, dictatorship and so on and so forth. The British were not his enemies; their colonial rule was his enemy. So the whole technique centers around appealing to the good side of a human being, so that she or he herself or himself accepts the faults, withdraws from wrong doing and comes on the proper track. Gandhiji did not want to hurt even a single British; he only wanted them to leave India.
The method of Adolf Hitler was totally contradictory to that of Gandhi. He believed that he had a right to kill people. He thought that he had many enemies in this world. He could not accept people who were different from himself. He made imaginary opponents and then killed them. This is the basic difference between the Mahatma and Hitler.
The second most glaring difference comes in the form of humanity versus racial purity. Gandhi respected all religious. He respected all races on earth. He wanted to grasp good points of all countries and people. He did not believe in sections of humanity. He believed in humanity itself. He did not believe that one race was superior to the other or one caste was superior to the other. He lived with untouchables, ate with them, played with them, cried and laughed with them. He wanted to identify with the weakest of the weak. His oft quoted lines are that policy makers of India should keep the poorest person in mind when they form and implement policies.
Hitler on the other hand believed in racial superiority of the Aryan race. His mind was full of non- sense. He believed that all evil in this world comes from the Jews. He believed that the blood of the Jews impure. He thought that weak people had no right to live; they must be killed. We can see that he wanted to identify with the strongest of the strong. Moreover his notions of strength were false. Jews were economically strong at that time. They were aiding to the economy. Why did he call them weak? There is no answer. The only answer is that he had false and whimsical ideas. Today after more than 60 years of this villain's death, we can say that the Jews have won and Hitler has lost. So many Jews have survived. Not only that, they have a strong and prosperous country like Israel. The most quoted living intellectuals of our times have been Jews. Nom Chomsky is a Jew. Jews are doing so well, especially in the areas of intellectual pursuits.
Gandhiji believed in democracy. Hitler believed in dictatorship. Hitler did not want to give voting rights to the masses. He believed in a totalitarian and authoritarian government controlled by a dictator.
Gandhi's life is an open book. Gandhi lived a totally public life. He had no secrets. He had no fear of being exposed. Hitler on the other hand had an insane passion for secrecy. He massacred people but never gave a clear-cut written order. He formed an inner coterie of similar minded psychopaths like Rudolf Hess, Koncrad Henlain, Franz, Halder, the cruel shooter Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goring, and Hans F.K. Ginther. These people talked among themselves and maintained utmost secrecy. While Gandhiji had no fear, Hitler had all the fears in the world chasing him. Gandhi believed in the rights and dignity of women. He fully believed in the dignity of labor. On every possible account, there is a terrible contrast between the Mahatma and the villain.
A famous historian describes Hitler "Adolf Hitler, 1889 1945 was the sociopathic leader (Fuhrer) of the Third Reich who was instrumental in establishing a totalitarian dictatorship, institutionalizing racism, and mobilizing the German people for war and conquest.
Between 1933 and 1939 Hitler was able to pull Germany out of the economic depression through government deficit spending, extensive public works projects, and massive rearmament. Through the use of sophisticated government propaganda, which involved the skillful manipulation of mass opinion and mass emotions, Hitler immersed the German people in a collective fantasy that they could overcome any obstacle, no matter how staggering, and become the greatest power in the world. He promoted the idea that the Germanic (Aryan) race, being at the apex of biological evolution, was destined to govern the world; but to do so, it had to undergo internal racial purification, involving sterilization of the unfit, euthanasia of "lives not worth living," and elimination of inferior races, chiefly the Jews. In Hitler's mind, the concept of race was intimately linked to the concept of space because a people's greatness depended upon sufficient living space (Lebensraum). As long as sixty-five million Germans were limited to a small geographic space, they would remain small and insignificant. He promised to change this situation by rearming the German people and providing living space for them in Eastern Europe. In order to make Germany a world power, it was necessary to mobilize its entire resources and to promote in the German people aggressive and warlike tendencies. For this reason, Hitler wanted to breed a hard and callous youth that would delight in war and conquest. The aim of National Socialism, he insisted, should be to teach all Germans to be brutal with a good conscience.
Between 1933 and 1939, his volatile, unstable, and sociopathic personality dominated European diplomacy, for he was able to manipulate the war-weary Western democracies into dismantling the Versailles settlement. At first, he pretended to speak as a man of peace and as a statesman whose nation had been tragically wronged by the Versailles Treaty. Appealing to the latent guilt feelings of the Western powers, he cleverly used the rhetoric of Wilsononian idealism against them by giving the world the impression that he, too, stood for national self-determination and a just and lasting peace. Secretly, however, he was preparing the way for conscription, rearmament, and war.
One brilliant success after another, giving Hitler an aura of invincibility, followed: the reoccupation of the Rhineland (March 7, 1936), the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria (March 13, 1938), the annexation of the Sudetenland (September 29, 1938), the destruction of Czechoslovakia and its conversion into a German "protectorate" (Bohemia-Moravia, March 15, 1939), and the incorporation of Memel into the Reich (March 23, 1939). By the spring of 1939, it has become obvious that Hitler was insatiable and that his goals went far beyond national self-determination, for Czechs were not Germans and swallowing up a foreign state was not national self-determination. Yet, regarding himself as the greatest German of all times, his ego inflated to the point of megalomania, Hitler continued to push his aggressive agenda, this time demanding the Polish Corridor and the city of Danzing from Poland as a prelude to his ultimate aim-the conquest of Poland and Russia. In order to forestall having to fight a two-front war and still dismember Poland, Hitler allied himself with his archenemy, the Soviet Union, and signed a Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact on August 23, 1939. One week later, he attacked Poland. Honoring their commitment to Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later.
World War II had begun. Hitler saw himself waging two world wars: a conventional military war and a biological war aimed at exterminating Germany's greatest enemy, the Jewish race. Between 1939 and 1942 his armies, relying on blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics, appeared invincible on all fronts. Poland was defeated in three weeks and destroyed as an independent state by Germany and Russia. After a period known as the phony war or Sitzkrieg (sitting war), Hitler resumed his conquests in April 1940, invading and defeating Denmark and Norway in rapid succession. On May 10, he attacked the Western powers; in one month he defeated Holland, Belgium, and France and drove the British expeditionary force from the Continent. By the summer of 1940 he was lord and master of the continent, but the British continued to hold out stubbornly and could not be subdued either by air or sea. After being side-tracked into conquering the Balkans and parts of North Africa as a result of Mussolini's military failures, Hitler committed his greatest and most fatal strategic error. In order to fulfill his racial utopia, which required the defeat of what he regarded as a Boleshevized and Jew-infested Russia, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. On December 11, 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he also declared war on the United States.
Hitler was now at war with the major powers of the world: the British Empire, the United States, and Russia, a war of attrition that could not be sustained by the limited resources and manpower at his command. For the next three and a half years, Hitler would wage war on five fronts: the home front, the air, the high seas, the eastern front, and the western front. Over seven million German and associated troops were stationed on far-flung fronts from Scandinavia in the north to the suburbs of Leningrad and Moscow, the Ukraine, and the Crimea in the east; to Holland, Belgium, and France in the west; to Italy and the Balkans in the southeast; and to North Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, Hitler's brutal occupation of conquered people and territories, combined with his bestial extermination policies of "inferior races"- Jews, Gypsies, "Asiatic inferiors" – truned his empire into a charnel house and caused a savage backlash against Germany. His crowning achievement, what his henchman Heinrich Himmler called "a glorious page" in German history, was the extermination by poisonous gas of over five million Jews in annihilation camps in Poland (Auschwitz, Bellzee, Chelmno, Maidanek, Sobibor, Treblinka).
With his cities pulverized by air and his armies in retreat on all fronts, Hitler increasingly withdrew from reality into vengeful recrimination, psychosomatic illnesses, and drug dependency. In January 1945, he went underground, directing the war from the safety of his bunker fifty feet under the Reich chancellery. When the Russians mounted their final attack on Berlin, closing in on the chancellery itself, Hitler made out his last will and testament, in which he blamed the Jews for everything and exhorted the Germans to keep the blood pure; he then married his mistress, Eva Braun, and committed suicide along with his new bride on April 30, 1945."
When Hitler died, the world heaved a sigh of relief. Everybody thought that the monster came to an end. His death was celebrated all over the world as a victory of humanity. He is the most hated name in history of mankind. His name is used as an abuse for authoritarian, egotistical people. Even an uneducated commoner knows that Hitler means cruelty. One can listen even to a laborer on an Indian roadside saying, "Hitler Shahi Nahin Chalegi" (Hitlerism will not work). This is what Hitler has gained by his cruel ways.
Let us now have glance at Gandhi's life.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the great Indian political leader and social reformer, was born in 1869 at Probandar in western India. In 1888 he went to London to study law, qualifying in 1891; there he first encountered liberal and Christian ideas, and the teachings of Tolstoy. Returning to India, he practised law there until 1893 when he left for South Africa. His experience of racialism in South Africa led him to take up the rights of the Indian community and he soon emerged as their leader. He instituted a campaign of passive resistance in response to the Transvaal government's discriminatory policy, coining the term Saytagraha- truth force – for this new revolutionary technique. This method of resistance was later used to great effect in India's struggle for independence. Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and in 1925 he became President of the Indian National Congress. His first major clash with the British government came in 1919 over the Rowlatt Act, and he then introduced the hartal, a strike during which the people devoted themselves to prayer and fasting. However, when his policies resulted in violence he abandoned the program of mass civil disobedience. For a period Gandhi withdrew from politics and travelled throughout India preaching the cardinal tenets of his doctrine; Hindu-Moslem unity, the abolition of untouchability, and the promotion of hand spinning. He adopted the peasant's homespun cotton dhoti and shawl, a gesture which won the people's hearts, and he became known as Mahatma – the great soul.
There are many divergent views about Gandhi's personality and his methods. Perhaps his most important contribution to India's struggle for independence was his spiritual leadership, and his consequent influence over the mass of India's population. All his life he held to two fundamental principles, a belief in Ahimsa, or non violence, and the concept of Satya, or truth; as he said: 'My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters (of his autobiography) does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is Ahimsa, I shall deem all my labor........to have been in vain."
For Gandhiji our eyes still fill with tears when we remember the day was shot dead. Louis Fischer writes,
"At 4.30 p.m., Abha brought in the last meal he was over to eat; it consisted of goat's milk, cooked and raw vegetables, oranges and a concoction of ginger, sour lemons and strained butter with juice of aloe. Sitting on the floor of his room in the rear of Birla House in New Delhi, Gandhi ate and talked with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Deputy Prime Minister of the new government of Independent India. Maniben, Patel's daughter and secretary, was also present. The conversation was important. There had been rumors of differences between Patel and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This problem, like so many others, had been dropped into the Mahatma's lap.
Abha alone with Gandhi and the Patels, hesitated to interrupt. But she knew Gandhi's attachment to punctuality. Finally, therefore, she picked up the Mahatma's nickel-plated watch and showed it to him. 'I must tear myself away,' Gandhi remarked, and so saying he rose, want to the adjoining bathroom and them started towards the prayer ground in the large park to the left of the house. Abha, and Manu, the granddaughter of another cousin, accompanied him; he leaned his forearms on their shoulders. 'My walking sticks,' he called them.
During the daily two-minute walk through the long, red sandstone colonnade that led to the prayer ground, Gandhi relaxed and joked. Now, he mentioned the carrot juice Abha had given him that morning.
'So you are serving me cattle fare,' he said, and laughed.
'Ba used to call it horse fare,' Abha replied. Ba was Gandhi's deceased wife.'
'Isn't it grand of me,' Gandhi bantered, 'to relish what no one else wants?'
'Bapu (father),' said Abha, 'your watch must be feeling very neglected. You would not look at it today.'
'Why should I, since you are my timekeepers?' Gandhi retorted.
'But you don't look at the timekeepers,' Manu noted. Gandhi laughed again.
By this time he was walking on the grass near the prayer ground. A congregation of about five hundred had assembled for the regular evening devotions. 'I am late by ten minutes,' Gandhi mused aloud. 'I hate being late. I should be here at the stroke of five...
It was only a few yards now to the wooden platform on which he sat during services. Most of the people rose; many edged forward; some helped to clear a lane for him; those who were nearest bowed low to his feet. Gandhi removed his arms from the shoulders of Abha and Manu and touched his palms together in the traditional Hindu greeting.
Just then, a man elbowed his way out of the congregation into the lane. He looked as if he wished to prostrate himself in the customary obeisance of the devout. But since, they were late, Manu tried to stop him and caught hold of his hand. He pushed her away so that she fell and, planting himself about two feet in front of Gandhi, fired three shots from a small automatic pistol.
Gandhi murmured, 'Hey Rama (Oh, God)' A third shot rang out. The limp body settled to the ground. His spectacles dropped to the earth. The leather sandals slipped from his feet.
Devadas touched his father's skin and gently pressed his arm. The body was still warm. The head still lay in Abha's lap. Gandhi's face wore a peaceful smile. He seemed asleep. 'We kept vigil the whole of that night.' Devadas wrote later. 'So serene was the face and so mellow the halo of divine light that surrounded the body that it seemed almost sacrilegious to grieve....'
Diplomats paid formal visits; some wept.
Outside, a vast multitude gathered and asked for one last view of the Mahatma. The body was accordingly placed in an inclined position on the roof of Birla House and a searchlight played upon it. Thousands passed in silence, wrung their hands and wept.
The procession, two miles long, left Birla House on Albuquerque Road in New Delhi at 11.45 a.m., and, moving forward inch by inch through dense masses of humanity, reached the Jumna River, five and a half miles away, at 4.20 p.m. A million and a half marched and a further million watched. Braches of New Delhi's splendid shade trees bent under the weight of persons who had climbed upon them to get a better view. The base of the big white monument of King George V, which stands in the middle of a broad pond, was covered with hundreds of Indians who had waded through the water.
Now and then the voice of Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, Parsis and Anglo-Indians mingled in loud shouts of 'Mahatma Gandhi ki jai (long Live Mahatma Gandhi)'. At intervals the multitude broke into sacred chants. Three Dakota aircraft flew over the procession, dipped in salute and showered countless rose petals.
Four thousand soldiers, a thousand airmen, a thousand policemen and a hundred sailors, in varied colored uniforms and head-dress, marched. Prominent among them were mounted lancers bearing aloft red and white pennants the bodyguard of Governor-General Lord Mountbatten. Armored cars, police and soldiers were present to maintain order. In charge of the death parade was Major-General Roy Bucher, an Englishman chosen by the Indian government to be the first commander-in-chief of its army.
By the holy waters of the Jamuna, close to a million people had stood and sat from early morning waiting for the cortege to arrive at the cremation grounds. The predominant color was white, the white of women's saris and men's garments, caps and turbans.
Several hundred feet from the river, at Rajghat, stood a fresh funeral pyre made of stone, brick and earth; it was about two feet high and eight feet square. Long thin sandalwood logs sprinkled with incense had been stacked on it. Gandhi's body was laid on the pyre with the head to the north and the feet to the south. In this position Buddha had met his end.
At 4-45 p.m., Ramdas set fire to his father's funeral pyre. The logs burst into flame. A groan went up from the vast assemblage. Women wailed.
Several personal friends of Gandhi asked for and received pinches of his ashes. One encased a few grains of ash in a gold signet ring. Family and followers decided against gratifying the requests for ashes which came from all the six continents. Some Gandhi ashes were sent to Burma, Tibet, Ceylon and Malaya. But most of the remains were immersed in the river of India exactly fourteen days after death-as prescribed by Hindu ritual.
Ashes were given to provincial prime ministers or other dignitaries. The provincial capitals shared their portions with lesser urban centers. Everywhere the public display of the ashes drew huge pilgrimages and so did the final ceremonies of immersion in the rivers or as at Bombay, in the sea.
Gandhi's assassination caused dismay and pain throughout India. It was as though the three bullets that entered his body had pierced the flesh of tens of millions. The nation was baffled, stunned and hurt by the sudden news that this man of peace, who loved his enemies and would not have killed an insect, had been shot dead by his own countryman and co-religionist.
Never in modern history has any man been mourned more deeply and more widely.
The news was conveyed to the country by Prime Minister Nehru. He was shaken, shocked and cramped with sorrow. Yet he went to the radio station shortly after the bullets struck and, speaking extemporaneously, driving back tears and choking with emotion, he said:
The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere and I do not quite know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we call him, the father of our nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will not see him again as we have seen him these many years. We will not run to him for advice and seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow not to me only but to millions and millions in this country. And it is difficult to soften the blow by any advice that I or anyone else can give you.
'The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later that light will still be seen in this country. And the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For the light represented the living truth, and the eternal man was with us with his eternal truth reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.
'All this has happened. There is so much more to do. There was so much more for him to do. We could never think that he was unnecessary of that he had done his task. But now, particularly, when we are faced with so many difficulties, his not being with us is a blow most terrible to bear.
A madman has put an end to his life.............
On January 30th, 1948, the Friday he died. Mahatma Gandhi was what he had always been: a private citizen without wealth, property, official title, official post, academic distinction, scientific achievement, or artistic gift. Yet men with governments and armies behind them paid homage to the little brown man of seventy-eight in a lion-cloth. The Indian authorities received 3441 messages of sympathy, all unsolicited, from foreign countries. For Gandhi was a moral man, and a civilization not richly endowed with morality felt still further impoverished when the assassin's bullets ended his life. 'Mahatma Gandhi was the spokesman for the conscience of all mankind.' said General George C. Marshall, United States Secretary of State.
Pope Pius, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of London, the King of England, President Truman, Chiang Kai-shek, the President of France, indeed the political heads of all important countries (except Soviet Russia) and most minor ones publicly expressed their grief at Gandhi's passing.
Leon Blum, the French Socialist, put on paper what millions felt. "I never saw Gandhi,' Blum wrote. 'I do not know his language. I never set foot in his country and yet I feel the same sorrow as if I had lost someone near and dear. The whole world has been plunged into mourning by the death of this extraordinary man.'
'Gandhi had demonstrated,' Albert Einstein asserted, 'that a powerful human following can be assembled not only through the cunning game of the usual political maneuvers and trickeries but through the cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life. In our time of utter moral decadence he was the only statesman to stand for a higher human relationship in the political sphere.'
The Security Council of the United Nations paused for its members to pay tribute to the dead man. Philip Noel-Baker, the British representative, praised Gandhi as 'the friend of the poorest and the loneliest and the lost.' Gandhi's greatest achievements', he predicted, 'are still to come'. Other members of the Security Council extolled Gandhi's spiritual qualities and lauded his devotion to peace and non-violence. Mr. Andrei Gromyko, of the Soviet Union, called Gandhi 'one of the outstanding political leaders of India's whose name 'will always be linked with the struggle of the Indian people for their national liberation which had lasted over such a long period' Soviet Urkraine delegate Tarasenko also stressed Gandhi's politics.
The U.N. lowered its flag to half-mast.
Humanity lowered its flag.
The world-wide response to Gandhi's death was in itself an important fact; it revealed a widespread mood and need. 'There is still some hope for the world which reacted as reverently as it did to the death of Gandhi,' Albert Deutsch declared in the New York newspaper PM. 'The shock and sorrow that followed the New Delhi tragedy shows we still respect sainthood even when we cannot fully understand it.'
Gandhi 'made humility and simple truth more powerful than empires', I.S. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg said. Pearl S. Buck, novelist, described Gandhi's assassination as 'another crucifixion'. Justice Felix Frankfurther called it 'a cruel blow against the forces of good in the world.'
General Douglass MacArthur, supreme allied military commander in Japan, said: 'In the evolution of civilization, if it is to survive, all men cannot fail eventually to adopt Gandhi's belief that the processor of mass application of force to resolve contentious issues is fundamentally not only wrong but contains within itself the germs of self-destruction.' Lord (admiral) Mountbatten, last British Viceroy in India, expressed the hope that Gandhi's life might 'inspire out troubled world to save itself by following his noble example.' The spectacle of the general and the admiral pinning their faith on the little ascetic would certainly seem to justify the verdict of Sir Hartley Shawcross, British Attorney General, that Gandhi was 'the most remarkable man of the century'.
To the statesmen and politicians who eulogized him, Gandhi was at least a reminder of their own inadequacies.
A California girl of thirteen wrote in a letter: 'I was really terribly sad to hear about Gandhi's death. I never knew I was that interested in him but found myself quite unhappy about the great man's death.’
In New York, a twelve-year-old girl had gone into the kitchen for breakfast. The radio was on and it brought the news of the shooting of Gandhi. There, in the Kitchen, the girl, the maid and the gardener held a prayer meeting and prayed and wept. Just so, millions in all countries mourned Gandhi's death as a personal loss. They did not quite know why; they did not quite know that he stood for. But he was 'a good man' and good men are rare.
My father was a twelve year old boy when the Mahatma died. He tells that nobody ate food that day. Nobody cooked food. People wept, men, women and children all alike. It was like a death in one’s own family. Those with some means, immediately started towards Delhi, carrying with them, ‘chandan’ wood logs, desi ghee and such material as is needed in the funeral.
'I know no other man of any time or indeed in recent history,' wrote Sir Stafford Cripps. 'who so forcefully and convincingly demonstrated the power of spirit over material things. This is what the people sensed when they mourned. All around them, material things had power over spirit. The sudden flash of his death revealed a vast darkness. No. one who survived him had tried so hard-and with so much success-to live a life of truth, kindness, self-effacement, humility, service and non-violence throughout a long, difficult struggle against mighty adversaries. He fought passionately and unremittingly against British role of his country and against the evil in his own countrymen. But he kept his hands clean in the midst of battle. He fought without malice or falsehood or hate'
The lives that these two men led speak for themselves. Heredity, parents, family background, culture, traditions and surrounding environment make a person. No individual is a separate entity in herself or himself. Everyone is part of a chain. The will power of the individual is important. The strength of the individual comes from various components described above. Gandhiji and Hitler present two antagonistically different faces of humanity. The above mentioned factors of heredity and environment are the main reasons behind the drastic difference between the two.
Gandhi's autobiography is much simple to understand as he has used very polite diction even on unpleasant situations. It contains qualities of simplicity, plainness and directness. His style has no place for embellishments, yet he did not hesitate in using examples and similes to explain the peculiarities of the contemporary personalities like Gokhale, Tilak and Pherozeshah Mehta. He writes "Sir Pherozeshah seemed to me like the Himalaya, the Lokmanya like the ocean but Gokhale was as the Ganga". He also has given other examples like "the Green pamphlet sold like hot cakes', and the advice was as better as poison to me. Gandhi has also used antithetical expressions in writing to give force to his statements as he has written, "Swaraj is for the awakened, not for the sleepy and the ignorant'. In his autobiography there is no confusion or ambiguity in his style as he is very clear about his goal and the path he followed. As Gandhi was shy of speaking, he developed the habit of brevity. He never used redundant expressions. He used words very economically. As a lawyer using direct opinions he made his point and hit the target without being diverted by unnecessary ornamental and flowery expressions.
Gandhi wrote his autobiography on political and spiritual matters as well. He was a spiritual personality as he was influenced by the Gita, The Bible, and other literary works like Ruskin's Unto This Last, Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-worship, Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is within you and Thoroue's Civil Disobedience. So he developed a prophetic style, which is well-pronounced in his statements on Ahimsa, Truth, and Love etc. He insists on the necessity of the purification of self. He writes "But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachement and repulsion". It was the massage of the Gita that made him feel, like one who is fLFkfr izK- "To conquer the subtle passions seems to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms."
Hitler's style in his Mein Kampf is turgid and full of blatant prejudices that mislead the readers. It is verbose, difficult to read, dull and the product of thwarted intellectual ambition. So it is full of pretentious tricks of the half educated man. In his Mein Kampf Hitler has fabricated a certain image of his life and has expressed a consistent racial view of the world. The book deals with the imagination that a common man rose from humble yet respectable circumstances and reluctantly abandoned his artistic career in favor of saving Germany from its enemies. Hitler wants to project himself a savior which he is certainly not. All the glimpses of his childhood and adolescence present a psychological data to understand his self serving prejudices.
Hitler's rhetorical style in his autobiography is intensely aggressive and propagandistic. The tone is pleading and urgent. It leaves readers gasping for air as it oppresses them with the warnings about the sinister forces of the Jews defiling Aryan blood, poisoning society and destroying the world. It is also overwrought, repetitive, pompous and pretentious. The style is turgid and full of mixed metaphors. The syntax is clumsy and convoluted. There are abrupt changes of direction and dissociated thoughts.
Thus the overwrought style of Mein Kampf is a definite psychological frame of Hitler's mind. It is an emblem of thought that expresses his character. "Hitler's mental style reveals several disturbing features: a tendency to rationalize personal failures of weaknesses; a marked preference for aberrant fantasies based on distorted ego projections; a paranoid fear of so thought malignant forces; and a deplorable habit of stating uninformed opinions, based on nothing more than self-serving prejudices, as absolute certainties."
The purpose of talking about Gandhiji and Hitler in one article is to highlight two drastically different faces of humanity. When we study the consequences of violence, hatred and racism, our faith in goodness, truth and peace increases. Sectarian attitude does not lead one anywhere. It is only when we see humanity as one powerful flow of energetic current that our vision becomes perfect and correct. Gandhi is the name of goodness that lies within us. Goodness, truth and harmony are fundamental to human nature; these forces are also highly infectious. The very mention of Gandhiji, his life and ideas solves many problems automatically.
Quoted by Ashis Nandi, Death of the Mahatma in Timer of Ideas in the Times of India, New Delhi, Wednesday, January 30, 2008, p. 16.
Klaus, P. Fischer, Nazi Germany : A New History, Great Britain London, Constable and Company Ltd., 1985, pp. 646-650.
M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography : The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Penguin Books, London, 1982, Introductory page.
Louis Fischer, Mahatma Gandhi : His Life and Times, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2003, pp. 1-13.
M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, p. 453.
Klaus, P. Fischer, Nazi Germany : A New History, p. 165.