Monday, November 08, 2010

Gandhi: A Unique Letter

Yesterday President Obama toured the home of Mahatma Gandhi, the famous Indian leader who fought for his country's independence. Obama, who was in India as part of an economic mission, cited Gandhi as one of his heroes, along with Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. This inspired me to think of Gandhi's many unique acts, and thereby I discovered one — featured on the blog, “Letters of Note” — that is relatively little known. It was a letter written by Gandhi to Adolf Hitler about a month before the Nazis invaded Poland. In it, Gandhi pleads with Hitler not to unleash a war “which may reduce humanity to a savage state.”

The letter — reproduced below — never reached Hitler, and it’s highly unlikely that it would have made a difference, but it underscores the fact that the act of communications requires the active engagement of both parties for the “conversation” to succeed.

As at Wardha,
C. P.,

Dear friend,

Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence. Something tells me that I must not calculate and that I must make my appeal for whatever it may be worth.

It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to a savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Any way I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you.

I remain,

Your sincere friend

M. K. Gandhi


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