Time Magazine’s Timeless Modi

Mehru Jaffer

There is absolutely no way of knowing whether Muslim people annoy Narendra Modi as much as Jewish people had annoyed Austria-born Adolf Hitler who instigated and then lost the last world war.

But both Modi and Hitler are mentioned here in the same breath because of a sense of deja vu over the euphoria in Gujarat today.

Hitler came to power in the midst of an economic depression and large-scale unemployment. Hitler was a man in a hurry who took it upon himself to return to Germany its lost glory. Picking up the economy and remaining in power were his only priorities.

In the name of development, and at a time when the German nation was on its knees, Hitler axed everyone who came in his way of making money, including political opponents like Marxists, students, business people, gypsies, Jews and artistes. He chose his friends with much thought and care. He befriended industrialists, nationalists and conservative forces in the army who had money, and were ready to obey him without debate.

Hitler even did quite well for a while, proving that bad people don’t always do only bad things. The good things that Hitler did was to make Germans feel that they could make the country strong again. He instilled hope at a time of hopelessness. He employed people in building highways and streets.

But he also got people he had imprisoned and confined to concentration camps to produce goods and supplies for the army without paying them for the work they did. He saved money by not paying workers he decided did not deserve to be paid. Within six years the number of unemployed did go down from many millions to thousands between 1933
and 1939.

The arms industry had generated massive employment opportunities and an economically desperate people grabbed any job available to them without question. As the economy improved, he made Germans feel that they
could do it.

Hitler’s quick-fix to make some Germans feel good and to continue in power began by instilling fear and awe amongst Germans of Jewish origin. Particularly wealthy bankers eventually did abandon much of what they owned in Europe and many of them fled, also to the US. Those Jewish families who had no means or place to run away to, were made to perish in gas chambers, intentionally constructed for murdering them. To justify the mass murders, the superiority of a mythical Aryan race was propagated that represented Hitler and his coterie as the good guys who loved the nation and its people, while the others were made out to have no love for the fatherland. The confiscation of much of what the Jewish elite owned was justified in the name of socialist ideals like the distribution of personal wealth to benefit the nation. 

Time magazine was so dazzled by him that Hitler was put on its cover as ‘man of the year’ in 1939. The same year Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II that cost the world 50 million lives 

At first all that Hitler seemed to have wanted to do was to confiscate privileges enjoyed by German Jews who were barred from government jobs and from owning land due to anti-Semitism practised in Europe for centuries. Most of the German citizens of Jewish origin were therefore bankers and earned a living in either small or big businesses. Others were in professions like teaching or medicine. Hitler’s anti-Semitism included a campaign against the Jewish people who were blamed for the previous world war and for hyperinflation in 1923. As Germans worked hard and the economy improved, their hatred towards fellow citizens of Jewish origin also increased. As unemployment slumped and Germans began to make money, admiration for Hitler magnified.

Hitler had banned trade unions, hiked interest rates and controlled wages strictly to further boost the economy.

All these economic miracles overshadowed the cultural, political and social damage caused by Hitler and his Nuremberg laws against Jews. Time magazine was so dazzled by him that Adolf Hitler was put on its cover, as the man of the year in 1939. This is the same year that Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II that cost the world 50 million lives and a loss of face once again for Germany.

No wonder there was deja vu when a few months ago the same magazine put Narendra Modi on its cover in March 2012!  This is why I hope that Muslims, other minorities and secular Indians do not go through the same experience under Modi as the Jews did under Hitler not so long ago in history.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JANUARY 2013