Hitler is a much-reviled character in the West and Russia. In India many looked up to Hitler to free India during the war days. My grandfather used to tell me that he and his friends would secretly listen to Nazi radio broadcasts beamed to India, as at that time listening to German radio was a crime. Many time Subhas Bose also spoke. He told me that when Tabuk was captured by the Germans, he and his friends drank a toast secretly to Hitler’s victory.
The question arises what did Hitler do for India’s freedom? This fact is never published because of political repercussions. The result is that the contribution of the Indian soldiers who fought in World war II on the side of the Axis is a burred page in Indian history.
In 1941 Von Ribbentrop conceived of a Joint German – Indian force to free India. This proposal was given in impetus with the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose in Germany in the same year. The Indian legion was formally inaugurated complete with its own insignia. Initial recruits were Indians who were in Germany, but when Bose addressed the Indian POWs in Italy, hundreds enlisted to join the Indian Legion.
The Indian Legion thus took shape and soon became part of the Waffen SS. It was a highly specialized force and a plan was made to airdrop 100 members of the legion into Iran and given the name Operation Bajadere. This group infiltrated to Baluchistan and carried out many acts of sabotage. They were highly successful, but there is no record of them in the military history maintained by the Historical records section of the Ministry of defense. All the records are with the archives of the German army.
The Indian Legion was also inspected by Field Marshal Kesselring and given its own standard. It fought an excellent rearguard action when the Germans were retreating in France. Earlier when Bose was leaving for Japan, a large contingent of the India legion was transferred to Japan and joined the INA.
Towards the end of the war, the remaining Indian soldiers of the Indian Legion tried to enter Switzerland but were taken into custody by the US army and handed over to the British. All the Indian soldiers were chained and put abroad ships and sent to India and were tried by Court-martial. They were given stiff sentences, but all were released soon as the British had decided to leave India.
This facet of Indian history is deliberately ignored by the Indian government, but now under Modi, I am told that orders have been given to acknowledge the brave action of The Indian Legion. We Indians must be proud of them as its part of our heritage.