The Last Article
|"The Last Article"|
The Last Article (1988), is an alternate history short story by Harry Turtledove. The story describes a Nazi invasion of India and the reaction of the Germans to the nonviolent resistance and pacifism of Mohandas Gandhi and his followers. This story was later reprinted in Turtledove's short-story collection Kaleidoscope in 1990.
Germany's success in World War II has led to their invasion of the British Raj, and rather than struggling for independence from the Crown, Gandhi and Nehru find themselves in the position of resisting Nazi occupation using the techniques that were successfully employed against the British. Although Nehru has a general concept of the inherent immoral nature of Nazism, Gandhi thinks they still can be persuaded, not heeding the warning from a Jew named Wiesenthal, who was able to flee Poland to India.
The Nazis, however, led by Field Marshal Walther Model, are completely unmoved by Gandhi's strategy. They view themselves as a master race and have no moral qualms about killing those who resist non-violently (or even those who do not resist at all, if they are of a certain race). In the end the movement collapses as it proves unable to deal with the savagery of Nazism.
The story then takes what could be deemed an intensely bleak tone. For instance, the way in which Gandhi draws a moral equivalence between the Nazis and British imperialists, something the other elements of the narrative are critical of, are Gandhi's real-world assertions. Model points out that his loyalty is to his own people, which do not include the Indians. That loyalty is rewarded when Gandhi hears a German radio broadcast commend Model's leniency after he perpetrated the Qtub road massacre.
In large part the story concerns the weakness inherent in Gandhi's, and later Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, non-violence movement requirement upon exposing the alleged hypocrisy of the communities that oppressed them. This was a plausible strategy against British imperialism or American institutional racism, as these oppressions were seemingly hypocritical given that the United Kingdom and United States societies espoused freedom and equality for all citizens, and would have been impossible in an antebellum United States. In essence, the fiction posits that violent resistance to things like Nazism, such as the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, is more likely to succeed than Gandhi's approach, although the Warsaw uprising, as was pointed out by Model in the story, was likewise a failure.
In a conversation, Field Marshal Model compares the alternate-world Nazi empire with ancient Rome, facing the early Christians, pointing out that their collapse came as a result of their tolerance. But the story does not characterize Model as a bloodthirsty savage; he is a professional at conquest, and Turtledove provides the SS officer responsible for the Warsaw Ghetto massacre to provide contrast between that officer's mindless savagery and Model's purposeful violence.
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