East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

That time Gandhi wrote to Hitler


I got this photo through the Ancient Explorers group1. In July 1939, Gandhi wrote a letter to Adolf Hitler. Basically, telling him not to be a dick – but in a classier way.


These few lines, that show the courtesy and tact of a sensible man trying to tackle a very poisonous snake, got me thinking.

I checked out a few historical timelines.
I was wondering what had happened in those days, to finally convince Gandhi to try and talk some sense into Hitler.

In May, the Spanish War had ended, and Italy and Germany had signed the so called “Steel Pact”. Hitler was planning the invasion of Poland, but that was not in the public’s knowledge2.

At the start of July, on the 6th, the last Jewish-owned shop in Germany had been closed.
On the same day, in a radio broadcast, Herbert Hoover urged the Americans to remain neutral.


Also in those days, the SS St. Louis, carrying 907 Jewish refugees was being denied access to both Cuba and Florida. They had to go back to Europe, and face the horror of the concentration camps.

As Gandhi was writing his letter, Russians and Japanese were fighting on the Manchurian border.

mohandas_gandhiThere is a distinct sense of incoming doom, in those days of summer of 1939, and yet the events in the historical timelines do not seem to carry any particular momentum.
It’s a summer like any other, on the surface.

It short of short-circuit the simplistic idea of a direct, clear, simple cause and effect for history.
Nothing happened in that summer, apparently, to cause Gandhi to put pen to paper.
It was not because of this, then that.
It was the distilled result of years of events.
History is complicated.

Did Hitler actually read that letter?
What was his reaction?
Or did some faceless secretary drop the letter in the trash bin, to preserve the Fuhrer’s peace of mind?
Was this one of those moments in which different timelines intersect, and alternate realities bloom?

But here in Karavansara, we think in terms of pulp history, and so one thing, in those timelines, struck my imagination.
You see, almost exactly one month before Gandhi’s letter…220px-Meinertzhagen_1922

Jun 28, Richard Meinertzhagen (1877-1967, a British army colonel, met with Adolf Hitler to plead on behalf of the Jews in Germany. He later claimed to have smuggled a pistol into the chancellery but lost his nerve and failed to shoot Hitler.

Weapons and murderous spirit having failed one month before, it was like peaceful thinking and rationality were trying to make a last stand against the incoming darkness. Hence, Gandhi’s letter.
And I start thinking in plots, scenes, chapters…
But that’s just me – I am a writer of fantasy.
Now, I want to learn more about Richard Meinertzhagen “British soldier, intelligence officer and ornithologist”… because there’s a story in there, and I want to know it.
I’ll keep you posted.

  1. great resource for anyone writing pulp adventure and fantasy 
  2. at least officially: it was pretty easy to see where Germany was going… 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “That time Gandhi wrote to Hitler

  1. Hello. I was going to invite you to my last blogathon dedicated to the Barrymore’s for Ethel’s birthday weekend, but couldnt seem to comment. However I’m hosting a new blogathon that I would like to invite you to. The link is below with more details



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