World attention is focused on India currently in regard to a children’s book that has come under severe criticism for listing Adolf Hitler as amongst its selection of 11 Great Leaders. The book highlights world leaders who have “devoted their lives for the betterment of their country and people,” and along with Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill and PM Narendra Modi, lists Adolf Hitler.
Hitler in fact makes it to the cover, as is Aung San Suu Kyi who has recently come under sharp criticism for her silence on the atrocities meted out to the minority Rohingya community in Myanmar. The book, published by B Jain Publishing Group, says in its description that the 11 leaders selected “will inspire you.”
The inclusion of Hitler has led to criticism from Jewish groups across the world, with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organisation, issuing a statement saying “dedicated to the betterment of countries and people? Adolf Hitler? This description would bring tears of joy to the Nazis and their racist neo-Nazi heirs.” “Placing Hitler alongside truly great political and humanitarian leaders is an abomination that is made worse as it targets young people with little or no knowledge of world history and ethics.”
Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is based in Los Angeles, called for the publisher to remove Great Leaders from circulation and its online store.
The New York Times, in an article on the book and the criticism it has received, points out that “In parts of Asia, atrocities committed in Nazi Germany are poorly understood and Hitler is sometimes glorified as a strong, effective leader.”
The article states that in “In 2004, reports surfaced of high-school textbooks in the state of Gujarat, which was then led by Mr. Modi, that spoke glowingly of Nazism and fascism. According to The Times of India, in a section called “Ideology of Nazism,” the textbook said Hitler had “lent dignity and prestige to the German government,” “made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant” and “instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people.” Only briefly does the book mention the extermination of millions of Jews and others by the end of World War II.”
The New York Times, quotes Annshu Juneja, a publishing manager at the imprint, saying that Hitler was featured because, like Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, “his leadership skills and speeches influenced masses.” “We are not talking about his way of conduct or his views or whether he was a good leader or a bad leader but simply portraying how powerful he was as a leader,” he said.
Interestingly, the book also lists Winston Churchill, who remains unpopular in India for his role in the Bengal famine.