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The forgotten story of Hitler's Indian army

An eye on Inidia: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hoped to weaken the Allies by attacking the British Raj
An eye on Inidia: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hoped to weaken the Allies by attacking the British Raj

On 15 August 1947, after 150 years under British rule, India gained independence. Gandhi and Nehru earned their place in the history books. But few mention Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian independence activist controversial for his agressive nationalism – and who solicited Adolf Hitler's help in liberating India from colonial rule. A report by Dhananjay Khadilkar from France 24.


Educated at Cambridge University in the UK, Bose was a radical who rejected Mahatma Gandhi's calls for non-violent resistance, saying India must take up arms to win its freedom.

During World War II, he decided to approach the German Führer.

Bose's goal was to recruit Indian students in Germany and Indian prisoners of war (who had been fighting for the British Empire) in German camps and use them as a liberation force for British-ruled India.

Although the so-called Tiger Legion was initially raised as an assault group that would eventually lead a joint German–Indian invasion of the western frontiers of British India, only a small contingent was ever put to its original purpose.

Hitler's Indian Legion - FRANCE 24's Dhananjay Khadilkar reports

Very few of the legion's soldiers saw any fighting, and practically none of them reached India.

They saw action in the retreat from the Allied advance across France, fighting mostly against the French Resistance. One company was sent to Italy in 1944, where it fought British and Polish troops and undertook anti-partisan operations.

At the time of the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the remaining men of the Indian Legion made efforts to march to neutral Switzerland over the Alps, but they were captured by American and French troops and eventually shipped back to India to face charges of treason.

Because of the uproar caused by the trials, the cases against legion members were dropped and all were released.

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