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Arathil Candeth Narayan NAMBIAR, went to Berlin in 1924 as a journalist and worked with the Indian communist group there alongside his brother-in-law Chattopadhayaya (married to the OGPU agent Agnes SMEDLEY). He visited Moscow as a Soviet guest in 1929. On the outbreak of World War II NAMBIAR was expelled from Germany but later allowed to return as Subhas Chandra Bose’s deputy in Berlin, with special responsibility in cooperation with the Germans for the Azad Hind radio transmissions, becoming the German-financed leader of the Free India Movement in Europe when Bose moved to the Far East to join the Japanese. He was also concerned with the Indian Legion, composed of Indian PoWs, which in 1944 was absorbed by the SS. In 1944 Nambiar was appointed Minister without Portfolio in Bose’s provisional government and arranged the printing of Azad Hind passports. He was arrested in Austria in June 1945 and interrogated in September 1945 as a Nazi collaborator. This file includes the long report of his post-war interrogation which contains details of the various military groups set up by Bose for training in Germany and many other peripheral matters including the setting up of the secret Abwehr (Abwehr was a German intelligence organization from 1921 to 1944) transmitting station ‘Mary’ in Afghanistan.
Recently in 24th October the Nambiar files were declassified (the above paragraph is a description of Nambiar from the National Archive) and is available on the National Archive UK website, and Nambiar is described in the above manner. The Nambiar files contain correspondences between Indian Intelligence Bureau and the British Security Service, MI5, it also contains the British analysis of Nambiar’s movement and the strategy of Indian Legion in Germany, and most importantly it contains the long interrogation report of Nambiar wherein he discusses in detail the activities of Bose in Germany. What is important in these documents is the first hand account of the strategy in which Bose wanted to free India.
This declassified security service files was originally file number 2153 of Indian Political Intelligence (IPI), absorbed by the Security Service after 1947. The Nambiar file can be broadly classified into three sections namely-the statements of Nambiar during interrogation, the statements of M R Vyas Bose’s aide, The Secret correspondences of various branches of British intelligence services on Nambiar and Bose. While presenting the statements of Nambiar I have tried my best to put a summarized version of the main events, mostly directly citing from Nambiar’s original statement, I have also provided notes on some important people and events for better understanding. It is to be noted that the Nambiar statement mostly attests the known facts about Bose’s movements and activities in Europe, however it also throws a new light on some lesser known events like the German strategy for their influence on the Provisional Government of India, involvement of German missionaries in propaganda radio run by Indian Legion, and also the existence of secret radio transmission stations used by Bose, to cite a few. However the entire literature presented in this piece must be read keeping in mind that the events and information revealed here are mostly from secret sources, the conclusions, understanding, judgement of character and situation is based on the perspective and the interest of the parties concerned. I have made no effort to put forward my opinion or views on any issue, I have just presented all the statements as it is, in some places I have rephrased the original statements, keeping the meaning same.
For example if you see these document which is actually an observation of Harald Kirfel (A Japanese expert and wartime instructor and interpreter, Kirfel was taken over by the RSHA in 1944 to head a section whose purpose was to acquire information on the political situation in Japan) who talked with number of Indians on the future of India, “the days of British rule in India are numbered. England has got to give the Indian people their promised freedom. Japanese tutelage would be resisted even though Free India would be grateful to Japanese for any help given them in their right to freedom. It only remains a question as to whether India will become a sphere of interest or even, perhaps, a sovereign state of the Soviet Union. The influence of Bolshevik ideology in India is already very strong indeed, and in the event of a Soviet victory would gain considerably in strength. Many millions of Indians are Bolshevists who would welcome an advance of the Red Army through the Khyber Pass.” In April 1945 Kirfel received through Nambiar knowledge of the context of a telegram from Bose to Nambiar which stated-“Indian Legionaries must in circumstances fall into the Anglo-American hands without a struggle. If possible the Legion is to play into Soviet Russian hands as there is a possibility that the Legion can be further employed from Moscow into India’s Right to Freedom.”
In the interrogation Nambiar says that he was born in 15th June 1898. His father died in 1915 and mother in 1924. Nambiar was married to Suhasini Chattopadhyaya the younger sister of Sarojini Naidu in 1917. After twelve years of marriage she filed for divorce in 1929 it was granted by the Madra High court in December 1936. While Nambiar was in Paris he meets Bose in August 1941 where the latter divulged his plans to Nambiar. Bose was of the opinion that-
- The revolutionary spirit in India had increased greatly, and large numbers were anxious for policy of action.
- His own popularity had greatly increased, since both before and after the outbreak of the war he had toured extensively and now had a large following. At the previous session of the Indian National Congress he had held a rival meeting, which was better attended that the Congress.
- He did not consider that Gandhi would lead an active campaign, and considered Nehru to be quite hopeless on account of his idealism and lack of realism.
- The present situation offered a great opportunity to work with the powers that were fighting against the British.
Subsequently few notable Indians, Nambiar included, assembled in Berlin to be with Bose. All gathered at Bose’s villa in Sophienstrasse, where Fräulein Schenkel was also present, all celebrated the birthday of Bose. And in this party they swear oath of allegiance to Bose, an office had already been established and in the next morning they all were working in the said office. It was on the first floor of a three storied building of which the members later occupied all three stories. There were seven rooms and 14 men working along with four secretaries-
- N.G GANPULE, 2. M R VYAS, 3. HABIBUR REHMAN, 4. SULTAN, 5. MAMA, 6. A. N AHUJA, 7. Dr. FARUQI, 8. DHAWAN, 9. LAL, 10. SWALHAY, 11. KENI, 12. ABDUL RAUF, 13. BHATTA, 14. KARTA RAM.
The founding of the Indian Legion:
On 27th January 1942, Bose held a meeting in the FIC (The Free India Centre, German Zentrale Freies Indien, was the European branch of the Provisional Government of Free India, the provisional government of the Azad Hind movement for Indian independence led by Subhas Chandra Bose. It was founded by Bose when he was in Berlin in 1942) office as a farewell party to the leading Legionaries who were going to Frankenberg to form the basis of the Indian Legion. Bose spoke in Hindusthani he was emotional and almost wept. He gave each man a flower and said that being in a foreign country that was the only gift that he could offer, but the real reward would come to them in due course when India would have been freed by their efforts. Afterwards Dr. Dhawan and one of the legionaries also spoke. Next morning N G Ganpule, Bose, Sultan (Mr. A M Sultan the prominent speaker of the Azad Muslim Radio) and Nambiar went to the railway station to see them off.
Establishment of secret Radio Stations:
Subsequently Bose also thought on establishing Radio station to stir up the Indian masses. The German Foreign Minister had full faith in Bose and the Ministry thought Bose to be as the right propagandist to stir up masses in India. Bose was anxious to extend the broadcasting station in Rome. He launched two radio stations one Congress Radio and second the Azad Muslim radio, both these station were to win over the Congress and the Muslim League supporters. The Congress Radio programme was in four different languages, in English, Bengali, Tamil and Hindusthani, while for the Azad Muslim radio Sultan was entrusted with the broadcast, Dr. J K Banerjee supplied the material and Abdul Rauf Mallick did the translation. Bose was also eager to arrange transmission to America and Ireland by a spokesman of FIC over the official Radio. Bose was praised by the German Foreign Ministry for efficient transmission. It also appeared that the failure of the Cripps Mission was largely due to Bose Radio transmission. In August and September when the disturbances in India were at its height Bose himself wrote a great deal of the script. It was believed that politicians in India were adopting the line of policy advocated by the Azad Hind Radio. On the 15th March 1945 the Azad Muslim and the Congress Radio were dropped and Azad Hind reduced to half an hour, as the German had lost several transmitting stations. In April 1945 Nambiar heard from Naidu that the FIC transmission was dropped on 7.04.1945.
The Azad Hind Magazine:
By January 1942 the first number of the Azad Hind Magazine had already been published. About three thousand copies had been printed and they were distributed in Universities, technical High Schools, to individual of importance and journalists. A few copies were also sent to interested individuals living in other countries occupied or controlled by Germany. It was originally planned that Dr. Dhawan would be the editor in charge, but Bose disagreed because of the mutual difference in views. K A Bhatta was editor in charge of the magazine and many articles were contributed by Bose which appeared under the initial OM, some mebers of the FIC also contributed. The publication was infrequent and irregular six issues appeared in 1942, four or five in 1943 and seven in 1944 and after the end of it there was no further issues. Nambiar was told by Mr. Bhatta that certain numbers of copies were sent to the Far East the copies being handed over by Bhatta to Bassler (Hilmar Bassler, former head of Hitler propaganda in East Asia, an old member of the Nazi Party and at the same time a confidential agent of the SS security staff.) of the press department of the Foreign Office for further despatch. The magazine was started mainly to bring before the European Public the Indian issue according to Bose’s point of view and to supply information about India to foreign journalists.
The Azad Hind Legion:
When Nambiar meet Bose in Berlin the latter had already decided in raising an armed force to fight against the British for the liberation of India. Bose had often said that this was an old dream of his and that when he was in Europe from 1933- 1937 he was greatly attracted by the idea of the Legions started by other countries during the last year. Bose had high hopes of making an Indian Legion into an efficient military organization and also a larger unit that he actually succeeded in raising. Bose had sent his representative to Italy on the prisoner of war question and it was decided that the Indian Legion should be built up in Germany and the Arab Legion in Italy. However in reality Italy stopped sending POW’s for the Indian legion and became interested in making their own Indian Legion! The Germans had also started their own Arab Legion and the matter was more or less became complex.
By January 1942 the Indian Legion had been formed at two centres, one at Meseritz and the other at Frankenberg. The Meseritz group was a part of the Lehr-regiment Brandenburg which was responsible for training intelligent soldiers in sabotage, espionage, and propaganda. The Legion at Frankenberg was also an integral part of the Azad Hind Movement. Ganpuley and Sultan were selected by Bose from the FIC to attend the affairs of the Legion. In April 1942 Col. Von Lahusen (General major Erwin von Lahousen (25 October 1897 – 24 February 1955) was a high-ranking Abwehr official during World War II, as well as a member of the German Resistance and a key player in attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler ) under whom the Meseritz was, inspected the Legion and offered a speech. Col. Lahusen was not so optimistic about the performance of the PW’s because of their lack of education and language difficulties. In September 1942 Bose visited the Indian Legion and spoke to them at length. In October 1942 Bose visited the other camp at Meseritz, he was aware that the Germans had lost interest in the Meseritz group. In September 1942 Bose was informed by Ruparti (a reserve officer with the rank of Captain, in civil he was a business man) of the Abwehr that his department needed to give training to four Indians with a view to developing the Abwehr’s communication with India. The plan was to send the party to NWFP (North West Fronteir Province) or a tribal area. Bose and Ruparti discussed this issue, and the former entrusted Swami (N G Swami) of selecting the four Indians to Far East, they were- Kartar Singh, Bhagwanlu, Kanwal Singh, Harbans Lal Mehta. They were trained in Cologne in commercial espionage and sabotage. Bose had informed Yamamoto (Col. Satoshi Yamamoto, Military Attache of the Japanese embassy in Berlin) of the possible deployment, and arrangements were made to send them to Far East.
Overall the Indian Legions were given training against many issues those as narrated by Nambiar were-
- The soldiers thought they had a right to special considerations otherwise they could go back as prisoners.
- Some of the German officers and more especially the NCO’s (Non Commissioned Officers) did not understand the Indian mentality, were rough in their language and ways, and used bad language which easily offended the Indians.
- Some of the Indian soldiers were originally non combatants and could not stand the hard military training and the harsh climate.
- The Indian PW’s though they could get promotion easily.
- There was also a certain amount of language difficulty although it did not create big issue.
- As time passed another fact that led to some tension was sex question. Ultimately in Holland brothels were opened.
Apart from establishing the Indian Legion Bose had also formed a special police group. He had also wished for some training in Naval warfare and looked for volunteers but none showed up to take the life of a sea-man. The plan was eventually dropped, and so was the plan for a small Indian Air force. Although many volunteered for the attractive jov but it didn’t turn practical due to technical issues.
In the midst of these projects Bose was informed of going to the Far East, it was in 05.02.1943. Bose left a note for Col. Meyer (Kurt Meyer?) and Nambiar to see that the Indian Legion would be run according to these instructions-
- The character of the Indian Legion is to be maintained.
- It should not be incorporated into or mixed with any other Legion.
- If and when committed to action it should be employed against British Forces only.
- Promotions of Indian to officer rank should be made as quickly as possible.
- Indians should have the same position and privileges as the Germans of corresponding rank in the Legion.
- As and when Indians were promoted to the rank of officer and NCO, the Germans should be withdrawn.
- The Legion should not be divided into religious or communal basis.
- Care should be taken that the Legion does not fall into the hands of the British.
- The idea of having a few trained men in the Air force should not be dropped.
- Instruction should be given in all modern German weapons, including heavy artillery, tanks and anti tank warfare.
- The contact with the FIC should be set up. Krappe (Kurt Krappe, Commanding officer of the Indian Legion) and Meyer were informed by Bose that N G Ganpuley and Sultan would be in charge of the Legion and that Nambiar should be the head of the FIC be in charge of the Legion as towards it policy.
Bose was disillusioned about the fact that the Germans would ever make it to the Indian soil, leaving little possibility to unite the Indian Legion with the INA.
Unrest in the Indian Legion:
Unrest rose up when the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht,“Supreme Command of the Armed Forces”) insisted transfer of the Legion from Koenigsbrueck to Holland. The Legionaries were informed through Krappe and very soon the discontent spread. A representative from the Legion consisting of Gurrachan Singh, Gurmukh Singh, Jaswant Singh, Ali Khan and Jamil Khan came to Berlin to discuss the issue with Nambiar. The representatives were of the opinion that they were forced into isolation and further away from India, where they could be trapped or perhaps made to change allegiance again. They were asking about Bose’s whereabouts, since there was a rumour that he has been arrested by the Germans. They were also apprehensive against the fact that there was no reliable spokesman of Bose to whom they could speak. Nambiar also informed that he could not repel the order, and that the Indian Legion had no options than to move. As per Nambiar he personally went to meet the Legion where he convinced the Legionaries that the rumour against Bose’s arrest was unfounded, he could not express his current location anyway. Nambiar also informed them that the transfer was to train the troops in coastal defence. However the Germans weren’t much impressed with the behaviour of the Legion on the eve of the transfer and some even suggested that mischief makers would be shot!
Bose visited Koenigsbrueck with Yamamoto to administer the oath of allegiance. Bose was informed about the discontentment of the troops and the punishment of the ringleaders. The situation inside the Legion was far from satisfactory there were some murders, and a young soldier had been convicted of rape. The court had passed a punishment of three years but General Blaskowitz (Colonel General Johannes Blaskowtiz was the German Supreme Commander East, he committed suicide when the Allied tried to put him into war trials) had remarked that a severe punishment must be inflicted as matters like this were becoming common. There was also a remark that severe punishment than that which would be awarded to a German sould be given because of the special erotic character of the Indians. Nambiar wrote to Keppler (Wilhelm Keppler, then an under-secretary of State in the German Foreign Office, he was appointed Director of the Special Bureau for India) against the matter but it was carefully suppressed. The situation began to calm down gradually and the Legionaries became happy again, when the news of ensuing promotions was announced and Bose’s departure to Far East was announced.
Quite suddenly the transfer of Legion was announced again this time to France, the reason given was better climatic conditions. But in reality the situation proved worse, the Legionaries were spread over a wide area, it became difficult to maintain unity and climatic conditions were worse. Promotions had been announced Muslims and Sikhs had obtained more promotions there was sort of communal divide over the matter of promotions. The representatives of FIC continued to visit the troops, talking to them, explaining the connection between digging trenches in the European coast and the freedom movement back home! The morale of the Legion was dwindling especially because of the treatment the Indian officers received over the Germans. The representatives of the Legion told the FIC leaders that the German officers were continually leading the troops and their strict discipline and order made their life hell.
In May 1944 the Legion was placed directly under the control of Waffen SS, the decision it was revealed came from Hitler. All Nambiar could do was to supply to Keppler the names of German officers who had ill feelings towards Indians. In the meantime Bose had a message for the Legion urging them to fight well and stand firmly under the leadership of Krappe, which was conveyed to the Legion.
Interesting activities of Thea Von Harbou:
Thea Gabriele von Harbou (27 December 1888 – 1 July 1954) was a German screenwriter, novelist, film director, and actress. She is especially known as the screenwriter of the science fiction film classic Metropolis and the story on which it was based. Von Harbou collaborated as a screenwriter with film director Fritz Lang, her husband, during the period of transition from silent to sound films. Von Harbou after separation from Lang developed interest in Ayi Tendulkar, a young Indian journalist. Nambiar says that after severance from both Fritz Lang and Tendulkar, Von Harbou entertained many Indians at her house. She helped many Indians with food, money and clothes on the outbreak of the war. Later it was confirmed by reports that she was employed by the Propaganda Department of the Foreign Office for the purpose. The Indians however quarrelled among themselves and became divided in two parties, one for her, and one against her. The group which was against her wanted that the money she spent on Indians were to be transferred to the Committee of the Indian Students’ Association. Bose had an understanding with her regarding the formation of the Indian Legion and she entertained the first PW who joined. By offering opportunities of wine and women to the PW and so relieving the monotony of their lives she came to have considerable influence in the life of young Indians.
Bose was keen to have close relationship with her but when he found that she was opposed by the members of FIC, and also opposed by Frl. Schenkel, he started criticizing Indians who visited her. Harbou visited the first batch of Legionaries in Frankenburg and she had leading members of the Legion coming to her house. Bose was opposed to the visit of Harbou in Frankeburg and complained to the Foreign Office, but it seemed they already had news of her visit. Nambiar says Harbou obtained her intimate knowledge of the Azad Hind Movement in order to keep the German informed.
Bose’s Planning Committee:
In April 1942 Bose had formed a Planning Committee and selected the following members-
- K L Majumdar
- K K Bose
- Dr. Ram
- MR Vyas
- Otto Faltis (Bose’s old friend from Vienna)
Bose also wished for the participation of Dr. Hafiz in the committee, Dr. Hafiz was a Punjabi Mohemeddan resident of Ankara. Hafiz was about 60 years of age, was a specialist in chemical explosives and become involved in the Indian National Committee during the last years. After several rounds of discussion Hafiz was to be included in the committee by Bose but after Hafiz went to Ankara, Bose began to realize the difficulties of this plan. About this time Saleh had left the FIC owing to his adamant pro-Muslim staunch and it appeared to Bose that if Hafiz if he came would join hands with Saleh (?) and launch a Muslim separatist movement. Therefore Bose dropped the idea.
Nambiar was made chairman of the planning committee, and under Bose two or three meetings were held. The planning committee was asked to draw up plans for aeroplane construction, for mineral resources, for arms productions, on financial issues and so on. Although the members tried their best to build up a report, “it was doomed to fail”, because the report reflected the ordinary bookish knowledge, and not the practical aspects. Bose himself contributed to the work of the planning committee by making personal contact with leading German industrialists and commercial figures. He was introduced by Keppler to the director of the Reichsbank with whom N G Ganpuley was afterwards supposed to maintain contact on behalf of the planning committee. Keppler also introduced him Voss President of the Skoda works, whom he also contacted with K Majumdar while his visit to Czechoslovakia.
Bose’s early negotiations:
Although Bose went first to Rome after his arrival in Germany he always intended to establish his headquarters in Berlin in spite of the coldness with which he was received by the German foreign officials. His early negotiations to establish a Free India Movement in Germany were conducted with Woermann (Dr Ernst Woermann) the head of the political department. He was especially anxious to obtain a declaration from Germany on the Independence of India, but owing to complications with the Japanese this was never forthcoming. Bose eventually secured from Ribbentrop (Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop (30 April 1893 – 16 October 1946) was Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany from 1938 until 1945) the establishment of a special department of the Foreign office to deal with Indian Affairs and known as Sonderreferat Indien. Keppler was appointed head of this Department and became Bose’s chief contact with the Foreign Office. In the Foreign Office proper Melchers (Wilhelm Melchers) was responsible for the Oriental Affairs, but his general policy was very cautious in spite of Bose’s enthusiasm. Melchers was kept informed of the movements in Kabul and information concerning the activities of Free India Movement generally. In addition Ribbentrop had two members of his personal staff to deal with the reports relating to India, they were Megerle and Schmiden.
Involvement of German Missionaries:
The radio transmission in Bengali was introduced into the RRG (Reichsrundfunkgesellschaftor, the German Broadcasting Corporation) broadcasts in 1942. K R Pal was the Bengali announcer until he was dismissed for ill discipline in early 1944 when Nambiar arranged for B L Mukherji to be sent from the Legion to replace him. Broadcasts in Tamil were also introduced at about the same time, the announcer being German missionary Dr. Beythan (Hermann Beythan authored a textbook in Tamil). The foreign Office officials concerned with Indian broadcasts on the RRG were Staataminister Ruhley and more directly, Hans Quelling. Latter aroused the opposition of S C Bose by his pro-Pakistan sympathies and his contact with Saleh. As a result of Bose’s protest Quelling was replaced by Schultz who had also been missionary in India. Schultz left the department towards the end of December 1944 and was succeeded although only unofficially by Munzler of the Arabic Department.
Discipline in the FIC:
Initially all the members of the FIC were imbibed with a spirit of enthusiasm and cooperation which continued up to September 1942. After this there were some internal disturbances which lead to the Saleh leaving the organisation. Saleh had joined the organisation with enthusiasm, but when he found that he was not elevated to a higher rank he became disillusioned and left the organisation. Saleh contacted with the Grand Mufti and some German officials with a view of starting a pro-Muslim Movement. This came as surprise to Bose who always desired to have few Muslims in his organisation.
Resentment against Nambiar:
Until Bose was in charge in Berlin everything was normal, but after his departure to the Far East resentment started to grow against Nambiar who was his second in command. When the Allied started bombing Berlin a move towards Hilversum was planned this was greatly resisted by some of the members. According to Nambiar the relocation to Hilversum was planned by the German Foreign Ministry because of its close proximity to the transmitting station and for prospects of its good accommodation. The members were not ready to move and most of them offered excuses for their stay in Berlin. Nambiar had to take disciplinary action against Guru Dyal Lal which pacified the situation temporarily. Nambiar was of the opinion that the members were against him because he chooses to stay in Berlin and enjoyed all the facilities which Bose was entitled to. The question of rightful spokesman to Bose started to rise and in this troubling situation Nambiar brought Habibur Rehman back from Hilversum to break the disgruntled circled.
In November 1943 the enthusiasm of the members was revived by the formation of the Provisional Government as they hoped their individual statures would be improved. A further incentive was the Japanese drive to Manipur in April 1944 but when these hopes were dashed the resentment was even greater than before. After the invasion discipline in the Hilversum office began to dwindle. Members worried about the direction of Nambiar and started writing to the Foreign Office putting forwards their demands and grievances. Nambiar was criticised by the Foreign office but not being able to manage the FIC. In spite of the continual bickering within the Radio group and the atmosphere of tension and distrust, the work went on satisfactorily. The Congress Radio deteriorated and Nambiar made proposals to stop it, but Bose wouldn’t listen. The remainder continued to work with energy and were still inspired by Bose’s personality although he was no longer present.
Official German Attitude towards FIC:
In the early stages the FIC had no special or well defined status, and only Bose was granted official facilities, the Foreign Office providing him with a villa, a car and additional ration cards to enable him to entertain official guests. The other members of the office were to bear with petty hardships. Nambiar talked with Von Trott (Friedrich Adam von Trott zu Solz,9 August 1909 – 26 August 1944 was a German lawyer and diplomat who was involved in the conservative opposition to the Nazi regime, and who played a central part in the 20 July Plot) and managed to arrange that, the Indians working in the FIC office were to given proper accommodation, exemption from restriction by Police, same scale of ration cards as other foreign officials, the FIC office to be refurnished, better access to newspapers and other documents. This made working in FIC an attractive career mostly for the other Indians who worked in other Institutions. German interest in the FIC was highest during February to August 1942 but it gradually declined all the prominent officials were transferred. German interest in FIC declined after 1943 because of the War and FIC eventually became a concern for the Japanese.
Finances of the FIC:
The activities of Bose were financed by the German Government on Loan. This was paid as a monthly grant amounting in all RM 35000 and credited to two accounts one in the name of Orlando Mazotta and the other into Bose’s private account. Initially Frl. Schenkel was in charge of these two accounts and after July 1943 Mama took over. Apart from the monthly salaries of members other expenditure from the FIC account included monthly allowances to various people and all overhead expenses of the office. When the Office was moved to Hilversum additional expenses incurred because the cost of living in Hilversum was greater than in Berlin, besides the members had lost a considerable of their belongings and an additional sum of 20000 RM was paid by the German Foreign Office as compensation. To meet additional expenses Nambiar asked Bose for money, and he did send 60000 RM through Yokohama Specie Bank. The FIC also earned a sum of 200000 RM for the printing rights of the FIC stamps, when FIC was closed down there was a credit balance of about 220000 in the Public account and about 50000 RM in Nambiar’s account. Both these accounts were kept in the Dresdner Bank in Kurfürstendamm, Berlin.
Meeting with Hitler:
On 25.05.1942 Bose has at last secured his long sought after meeting with Hitler. He was accompanied by Keppler to Fuhrer’s Headquarters on the Eastern front and had an interview there. Bose told Nambiar that Hitler had refused the proclamation of Indian Independence until his troops were near to the Indian frontier. Bose also suggested to Hitler that the statement on Indians in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ be publicly withdrawn, Hitler never replied. Hitler had agreed to Bose’s decision to leave Germany for the Far East. After this interview a photograph was published in the newspaper with Bose, Hitler and Ribbentrop which ultimately made Bose public. Bose gave his first press conference in Germany, Keppler had made arrangements for it.
Journey to the Far-East in an Italian Airplane:
Ever since the entry of Japan into the war and especially since the fall of Singapore and Rashbihari Bose’s arrival there, Bose had been continually thinking of going to the Far East. He remained in close contact with all the officials of the Japanese Embassy, doing everything to win their confidence in order to obtain their support for his journey. In June 1942 when Bose learnt that the Italians had succedded in send a nonstop flight to the Far East and was thinking of sending another one, Bose increased his negotiations with the Japanese and finally succeeded in winning confidence of Oshima (Hiroshi Ōshima, April 19, 1886 – June 6, 1975, was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, Japanese ambassador to Nazi Germany before and during World War II). In early October 1942 while on a visit to Königsbrück, Bose was informed by Dr. Werth (Von Trott was assisted by Dr. Alexander Werth, at the invitation of Netaji Research Bureau, Dr. Werth delivered the ceremonial Netaji oration in Calcutta in 1969.) that arrangements for his flight to the Far East had been completed and that he was to leave within a week. Immediately after coming to Berlin Bose went to the Italian Embassy to collect details about his journey. The date was given 10-11 October. Two days later Bose received a letter from the Italian Ambassador Alfieri through the ordinary post congratulating him on his forthcoming journey. This lack of security made Bose furious, and angered even the Germans and the Japanese. However even with Bose’s best effort the journey could not be possible because the delay in arranging the flight was due to technical difficulties, as the Italians and the Japanese could not agree on the extent of technical assistance required from the Japanese to make the flight safely. Moreover the first route used by the Italians was over Russia, and now because of Russia’s objection the route could not be used for the second time, and the route had to be made more southerly, flying over India, causing eight to ten hours of flying hours. Eventually the journey through flight was dropped.
In December 1942 Bose went to Vienna to spend Christmas with Frl. Schenkel and his daughter. The child had been born in September after a period of acute indecision for Bose. He had rejected any other course and had decided to keep the matter a very close secret, although he had considered marrying Frl. Schenkel and accepting what he considered to be the inevitable consequence of his retirement from his political career, when the story become known to his followers in Indian and Europe. Otto Faltis had advised against the marriage and Frl. Schenkel had accepted Bose’s decision but hoping that with the success of his mission he would be able to regulate their relationship. I believe with the failure of all his plans Bose will now give up political activity to rejoin Frl. Schenkel and his child.
Bose’s account of escape from India:
In early September 1942 Bose, Von Trott, and Nambiar left for Vienna chiefly at the instance of Otto Faltes. In Vienna a small party had been arranged where Bose gave an account of his escape from India-
After his arrest he started a hunger strike which resulted in his being released for health reasons, although watch was still kept over his house. He then made arrangements to leave India only two or three of his friends being taken into confidence. He grew beard and when the plan was mature, escaped from the house and travelled by train to NWFP dressed as a Pathan. Although he has some anxious moments when a group of three Indian Officers entered his compartment and travelled part of the way with him, he reached Kabul without great difficulty. In Kabul things were very difficult for him, he often had to change his place of residence and one occasion was jailed by the Afghan Police and only released on bail by a friend. He contacted the Italian and German Legations with a view to obtaining a passport but for a long time they refused to help. Eventually the Italian Consul Coruni issued him a passport under the name Orlando Mazotta and arranged his departure through the Russian territory via Warsaw to Germany.
Nambiar says that he saw the Italian passport with Bose wearing the beard and wearing European clothes. Bose eventually took the passport with him as a souvenir. Bose also sent a letter to Molotov thanking the Russian Government for arranging his safe passage through the Soviet territory. Before his departure to the Far East Bose had a meeting with Dr. Goebbels (The German Propaganda Minister, and Hitler’s closest aide).
Bose leaves for the Far East:
On 28.01.1943 German Naval Officers called on Bose to give an idea of a long journey by submarine and accordingly he was medically examined. Bose had wished to take Dr. Faruqi with him in the submarine but after his confidence on Faruqi decrased he asked for a Sikh, a Hindu and a Muslim companion which was rejected, and he was asked to take only one companion and he took Hassan. Eeventually all arrangements were made, and on the evening of 6th February N G Ganpuley and Nambiar went to meet Bose at his villa. Frl. Schenkel was also present and most of the time was spent on preparations for the great departure. Next morning Keppler, Werth, and myself accompanied Bose and Hassan by train to Kiel. On arrival there we were informed that the submarine would leave at nine o ‘clock the following morning. The Captain called to fetch Bose in the following morning 08.02.1943 and the submarine departed as soon Bose was on board.
In order to create impression that Bose was still in Germany, Bose had recorded two talks which were to be broadcast while he was at sea. They were kept by Asman (formerly a business man in India, he was in touch with Legion affairs through Bose on one side and the Wehrmacht on the other ) and eventually one was broadcast unfortunately this coincided with Gandhi’s fast and as no reference was made the broadcast appeared to be bit dull.
Secret Transmitting station:
Bose used a secret transmitting station located somewhere in the tribal territory on the frontier. Bose never told anyone in Germany about this secret station, it was only when the Germans came to knew that the Russians had cracked the key to the code used. The Russians had agreed that the information about this secret station would not be let known to the British. Trott informed Nambiar that it was necessary for them to reveal the location of the station to the Japanese. The matter was conveyed to Bose and he asked to give up the station entirely. In order to establish a new station and to send a new code, the Abwehr planned to send a certain Captain Witzleben by plane to Afghanistan. Eventually the messages from this new station named, ‘Mary’ was sent by Rehmat Khan. Rehmat Khan was a member of the Central Committee set up by Bose before his escape from India and it was his task to collect all the information inside India on the lines of indicated over the Azad Hind Radio. The transmitting station in Kabul as said before was, ‘Mary’ and the Abwehr receiving station in Germany was ‘Elephant’. Messages received from Rehmat Khan after Bose’s departure from Germany were transmitted to Bose via Bangkok and Tokyo by station Elephant which also passed on messages from Bose to Rehmat Khan. After Bose’s departure from Germany the Abwehr had a suspicion that either Bose or the Japanese were in touch with ‘Mary’ through channels unknown to them, possibly using a secret station in Singapore.
Perhaps it will be easy to understand the nature of communication through this channel by an example. In July 1943 a reply was sent to Bose from the station Mary by Rehmat Khan on the questions asked by Bose-
- That Jai Prakash Narain was prepared to join the Central Committee.
- That Dr. Lohya had left for Calcutta.
- That Mrs. Aruna Asraf Ali was very helpful.
- That Swami Shahjananda had agreed.
- That Bakshi of Calcutta was helpful.
- That Indu Lal Jajnik was helpful.
In June 1944 Nambiar forwarded several questions prepared by Bannerji to transmitted through Elephant station concerning the situation in Bengal, and Dr. Chaudhry’s influence, and questions of Nambiars dealing with the reception of Azad Hind Broadcasts, the influence of the communists, the attitude towards Russia, and the strength of Muslim League. Nambiar received answers to these questions from Rehmat Khan from Mary station in October 1944.
The above are a summarized version of Nambiar’s full statement which actually is very detailed and long. In fact the interrogation of Nambiar lasted for five weeks; it was conducted by an Indian Security Officer by the name Captain Naurang Singh Bains. I have only discussed some very important parts of the full statement and I feel that the reader must also know the other side of the story from the statement of M R Vyas, Bose’s close aid, and whose name have been often mentioned in this notes of Nambiar files.
Nambiar has stated that there was a commotion after Bose’s departure among various members of FIC. But Vyas reports that after the departure of Bose to the Far East Nambiar stopped holding social gatherings like Bose, and began to “behave like an aristocrat chief of a big organisation”. Nambiar could not keep with Bose’s magnificent personality; he failed to keep tied the unity of the team.
On one occasion Vyas saw Mrs. Niedermeier who was a mistress of Nambiar, Mrs. Niedermeier had been introduced to Nambiar by Dr. Trott who had suggested to Nambiar that the later is in much in need of a house keeper. Vyas says it was clear that this was a well thought out political move on the part of the German Foreign Office, which must have then visualized what good use they could make of Nambiar in the event of a rise in the power and prestige of Bose in the Far East. Their aim was to bring Nambiar completely into their clutches. As events later showed that they were not unsuccessful in this regard, as Nambiar completely became a victim to the charms of this lady. As Nambiar came close to this lady he eventually lost contacts with the members of FIC. On one occasion Nambiar was away for a six week pleasure trip to France, in September 1943 and information provided by Rao and Sultan exposed that he spent much time satisfying the desires of this lady.
According to Vyas though the Germans succeeded in capturing Nambiar their ultimate mission could not be fulfilled. “This was chiefly because events in East Asia did not take place just as the Germans perhaps visualized in March 1943, when introducing Mrs. Niedermeier to Nambiar. The Germans knew the previous history of Nambiar to be that of a staunch communist and his dubious character. With the establishment of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind in October 1943 and the appointment of Nambiar as the Minister of State to that Government no doubt Nambiar’s importance as a tool for gaining information about Bose’s activities and extending German influence in the Far East somewhat increased. But with the failure of the Japanese in 1943 to smash into India, neither the FIC nor Nambiar ever achieved that importance for which Germans hoped and which could have been of some use to them for their political intrigue.
After the transfer of FIC to Hilversum a general atmosphere of dissatisfaction prevailed, and Nambiar went into that pleasure trip informing no one. The hard task of solving the issue of the lost luggages of the members (which were bombed out) needed to be addressed and at this crucial juncture he wasn’t there. When Nambiar finally appeared all he could explain was that he was in an official trip, the only official work he did according to Vyas was to attend the inaugural ceremony of FIC at Paris. Towards the end of November 1944 a telephone call was made to Hilversum which informed that Nambiar had been appointed as Minister of State in the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, apart being appointed the leader of the Indian Organisations in Europe. Nambiar later told that he was not expecting the post and this was thrust upon him by Bose.
Vyas said that information later revealed that German Foreign Office had been lobbying hard for Nambiar to the post of an ambassador. “The German calculation was that in case Bose appointed Nambiar as the Ambassador of his Provisional Government in Germany, the Germans would have a right to set up a legation at the headquarters of S C Bose. The information available is that the Japanese were keeping the Germans completely cut off from developments in Burma, Malaya and Dutch East Indies which was probably not in accordance with the secret treaty signed by Japan and Germany.” Vyas reports that the Germans were kept in dark about the movement of Bose. “The Germans still thinking in terms of the final victories of the Axis Powers, were naturally unwilling to let the Japanese become the sole masters of India and therefore desired to have legation at Bose’s headquarters, which would serve the Germans as a channel for getting information about the trend of affairs in the Japanese occupied territories and at the same time would be asource for maintaining Germany’s influence on Bose and the Provisional Government of India. The Japanese however recognised German intentions and were therefore opposed to the appointment of Nambiar or anyone else as the Ambassador in Germany. As a way out and in order to satisfy Nambiar who was always complaining that Bose was not giving him enough power and authority, Bose decided to give Nambiar the post of a minister without portfolio.”
The British Intelligence Secret Correspondences:
An unsigned letter to Hugh Otway De Gale (once superintendent of Punjab Police, 1945 designation unknown) dated 12th November 1945 probably from British secret service asks for these information from the interrogators of Nambiar-“will you please ascertain from Nambiar what was the impelling reason which induced Bose to go to the Far East, and whether the idea originated in his own mind without any encouragement from the Germans or the Japanese. Had the fact Germany was beginning to lose the war in the west anything to do with it?” In reply the Indian Security Unit passed on the report after asking Nambiar about the Bose question-
- Bose felt especially after the Japanese capture of Singapore that Japan had come to be the major partner in the domination against the British. Therefore he was anxious to be closer to the Japanese HQ and scene of operations near to the Indian frontier.
- Bose was anxious to get the leadership of the Indian movement in the Far East. He definitely felt that it would be difficult to replace Rash Bihari Bose at a later stage who was already inefficiently leading the Indian movement there.
- Bose felt that by his being nearer to the Japanese HQ he could encourage the Japanese to give the greater attention to the Indian question especially from the military point of view. Nambiar denies any knowledge as to whether the Indian German stalwarts like Nehru were in combination with Bose while the latter was in Berlin.
- Neither the Japanese nor the Germans took the initiative; Bose conceived the idea himself and was very keen in going. The Germans were not enthusiastic and the Japanese were indifferent in the beginning. At a later stage both Oshima and Ribbentrop admitted that Bose was a shrewd politician. He impressed Oshima very much with his idea of going to the Far East and the latter strongly put his weight in favour of Bose’s going there. At the beginning Bose could not prevail upon the German-Japanese plan of dividing the spoils of India, which were in the melting point on the ‘Pakistan’ issue i.e having India as a Muslim state under the German domination from North India including Kabul and the NWFP to the extreme southern end of the Punjab, and for this purpose the Germans were keeping the Grand Mufti in their hands. It was only after a keen struggle that Bose’s swung the pendulum to the other side and the German politicians had to withdraw the so called, ‘Pakistan’ scheme. It has also the support of the German General Bansal who knew General Tojo (Hideki Tojo, December 30, 1884 – December 23, 1948, was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), the leader of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during much of World War II). The consent from Tokyo came after some time and in the meantime Oshima talked to Ribbentrop in order to avoid the possibility of Germans placing any difficulty in the way. Even before his meeting with Hitler Bose had conceived going Far East. As soon as Japan entered the war he had decided to go to Japan. Whether he had prior to his disappearance from India negotiated with the Japanese on this issue is not known to Nambiar. At this juncture (February 1945) the Germans thought that Bose by being in the Far East would be helping the German cause indirectly my creating more trouble for the British in that theatre of operation.
- Bose was still hopeful of Germany winning the war in the West and the fact that Germany was beginning to lose the war there had nothing to do with his departure in the Far East.
Nambiar’s letter to Amiya Nath Bose
Nambiar wrote a letter to Amiya Nath Bose (S C Bose’s nephew) in 19.08.1947 at the latter’s address 1 Woodburn Park, PO-Elgin Road, Calcutta. In this letter Nambiar writes-“ I have received a note from a very prominent person in Indian public life, asking me for a verification of a report concerning the matter, apparently supplied by a person who has returned from Europe”
This letter was screened by the Intelligence Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs, and was passed on to the Security Liaison Officer, K M Bourne stationed in Delhi for their, “comments on the letter”. The Security Liaison Officer was basically a MI5 officer posted abroad usually under diplomatic cover but declared to their hosts so they may conduct liaison duties. It was mutually agreed that after Indian Independence a security liaison officer would be posted in New Delhi to help the Intelligence Bureau, Delhi, “this encompassed guidance on counter-espionage operations directed against the Communist Party of India and included the security related information between London and New Delhi.” Mr. Bourne forwarded this letter to the Director General (of MI5?) in London for further clarification. The question came as surprise to the Director General in London in a note they write-“I am wondering whether destruction of records has left DIB’s office with no official information about the birth of Bose’s daughter. Otherwise we should never been asked to comment on Nambiar’s letter.” In their official reply the Director General informs in 27th October 1947 that matter is regarding the S C Bose’s daughter, and the ‘public man of importance’ is Pandit Nehru and, ‘the man who recently returned from Europe’, is N G Ganpuley.
Another important correspondence between Director General Indian Political Intelligence and Mr. Halford, reveals Nambiar’s importance to the British Secret Service. “On 05.12.1945 under our No 6907 we forwarded to Mr. Bromley an extract from a statement made after arrest by A C Nambiar Bose’s one time minister plenipotentiary in Berlin. After several months detention Nambiar was allowed to reside at Gottingen under certain restrictions. In July 1947 he arrived at Zurich in possession of a Military Exit permit and informed the authorities that he wished to undergo medical treatment. Soon afterwards he acquired an Indian Passport from the External Affairs New Delhi and was thus enabled to return to India where he arrived towards the end of June 1948. He has now been posted to Berne as councillor to the Indian Legion an appointment which he undoubtedly owes to Pandit Nehru one of his most intimate friends. During his career Nambiar was first an active communist and a tool in the hands of Nazis. He has numerous connections on the continent and is in a position where if disposed he could do damage to British interests.”
That was all that I thought worth putting in this long note.
The A to Z of British Intelligence, Nigel West.
The Cold War in South Asia: Britain, the United States and the Indian Subcontinent, 1945–1965, Paul M Mc Garr.
Sumit Soren is the founder of Livelystories. Basically an Agricultural Engineer, Sumit has interest in varied topics. He regularly writes on tribal history, internet and science related topics.