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India: Bollywood does Hitler

What's up with all the Nazi symbols in India?

Devi found a ready audience for her deification of Hitler in wartime Calcutta, Goodricke-Clarke, author of a biography titled “Hitler's Priestess,” said in a phone interview. The local population, perhaps ironically, saw the Axis Powers as their future liberators. As Devi was preaching Hitler as Vishnu, Bengali freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose was arranging a meet with the Fuhrer in Berlin and forming his rebellious Indian National Army to fight with the Japanese against India's British colonizers. And Devi herself helped reconcile Hinduism's all-embracing ideology with the Hindu Mission's message of ethnic nationalism. A neo-paganist, she saw in Hindu India the living antecedent for the destroyed Egyptian and Greco-Roman cultures she admired and idealized, according to Goodricke-Clarke. “She related to this idea that the Indo-European people were the ones who came closest to perfection, and she saw Hindu India as the last place in the world that still celebrated the ancient pagan pantheon,” the historian said.

Later in life, though she settled in India, Devi fell out with the leaders of Hindu nationalism, Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst, a staunch defender of India's right, maintains in a recent article. He argues that the Hindu nationalist movement broke from Nazism early and definitively, when its founder VD Savarkar pledged support for the Allies and later for the formation of Israel. Moreover, he claims in a recent book, “The racial theory of caste is now a marginalized doctrine, championed only by people with a political agenda. It is espoused by white racists in the West and by ethnic separatists in India, strongly patronized and tutored by Christian missionaries.”

For neo-Nazis, Devi may have been the first person to claim that the Holocaust never happened. Her half a dozen-odd books, not including a memoir of her favorite cats, provided new pseudohistorical support for the theory of a mythical master race of fair-skinned Indo-Europeans. But, more importantly for neo-Nazi ideologues like Matt Koehl, Bill White, and James Mason — not to mention Charles Manson — Devi's writing helped to establish a kind of religious framework for Nazism. In 1982, shortly before her death, neo-Nazi publisher Ernst Zundel issued what must have seemed a tantalizing advertisement for a series of taped interviews with Devi and a new edition of her most influential work, “The Lightning and the Sun.”

“The Hitler cult revealed,” the notice read. “Discovered alive in India, Hitler's guru!”