By KAI SCHULTZ
“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,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, said in a statement.
Published by the Pegasus imprint of India’s B. Jain Publishing Group, the book, called “Leaders” — but listed on the publisher’s website as “Great Leaders” — spotlights 11 leaders “who will inspire you,” according to a product description on the publisher’s website.
On the book’s cover, a stony-faced Hitler is featured alongside Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Also included on the cover is Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has recently come under sharp criticism for refusing to acknowledge atrocities committed by the country’s military against the Rohingya ethnic group.
Earlier this week, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is based in Los Angeles, called for the publisher to remove “Great Leaders” from circulation and its online store, where it is sold for about $2.
“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,” Rabbi Cooper said in the statement. Annshu Juneja, a publishing manager at the imprint, said by email 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.
The publisher had not previously received any complaints about the book, the email said, including from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In parts of Asia, atrocities committed in Nazi Germany are poorly understood and Hitler is sometimes glorified as a strong, effective leader. 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.
Dilip D’Souza, an Indian journalist, wrote in a 2012 editorial that when 25 mostly upper-middle-class students taught by his wife at a private French school in Mumbai were asked to name the historical figure they most admired, nine of them picked Hitler.
“ ‘And what about the millions he murdered?’ asked my wife. ‘Oh, yes, that was bad,’ said the kids. ‘But you know what, some of them were traitors.’ ”
The statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that “Great Leaders” had been sold this month at the Krithi International Book Fair in Kochi, a city with a long Jewish heritage. The 48-page book was originally published in 2016, according to the publisher’s website, and it was still available for sale online on Saturday. It is unclear who wrote it.