Michilotte Madhavan-a forgotten Indian hero executed by the Nazis
“To forget a holocaust is to kill twice.”
Holocaust, a name that brings back memories of the darkest era ever witnessed- world war two. A time where millions of Jews were mass slaughtered and what remained was nothing but a huge void of pain and terrific memories. The well-planned event that took place some centuries back still gives chills down our bones every time we hear about the stories. But that doesn’t mean the cries should stop or the tales should be forgotten. Instead, it is these cries that make us remember what happened and forbid one from happening again.
While the world remembers that six million Jews were slaughtered- it is incorrect to deem it in stats. Instead six million murder cases happened and with each case, one Jews were murdered. But one case involved the execution of a 28-year-old Indian-born Michilotte Madhavan whose story remains hidden under a huge pile of souls sacrificed by Adolf Hitler. This is his story.
Michilotte Madhavan from the town of Mahe off the Malabar Coast in Kerala.
Madhavan was born in 1914 in Mahe, a French colony on the Malabar coast of Kerala. Here he attended a French school and later went to do his bachelors in Pondicherry. Since he hailed from a middle-class family, Madhavan was increasingly involved in local politics. The rebellion trait indeed came in his family, as his own brother Bharathan was also a prominent figure in the Mahe liberation movement and their house was a secret meeting point for Mahajana Sabha.
His interest in India’s freedom struggle also evolved when Gandhi Ji visited his colony in 1934 to uplift the Dalit community. The motive behind the trip was to create the Youth League in French Indian territories, a league to inspire their own Freedom struggle. Madhavan joined the Youth League before moving to Pondicherry. He was also an active member of Harijan Sevak Sangh, an organization Gandhiji founded to help the lower castes access education and temples.
A few years later, Michilotte Madhavan was invited for further education at the Sorbonne University of Paris. Madhavan saw it as a chance to explore the world and immediately enrolled in the university in 1937. It was a time when resistance against the Nazis was at its peak, inspired by so Madhavan joined the French Communist Party and became a member.
As it is rightly said, Paris and romance go together and so for Michilotte Madhavan. He fell in love with a French maiden called Giséle. The two wanted to get married after the war but Gisele too died in Auschwitz.
Rise of a Rebellion
The details about his journey in France are unknown but that he was involved in a theatre bomb blast that killed two Nazi soldiers. On March 9, 1942, he was arrested by the pro-Nazi special brigades and later handed over to Gestapo. It is believed that he was brutally tortured before being executed.
According to a diary found of his fellow prisoner P.S. Shamop, Gestapo took Madhavan along with 115 other prisoners from the camp and executed them.
“All were handcuffed and when they were boarding the vehicle, the rest of the prisoners wished them bon voyage. As Nazis had declared that no one would be given capital punishment, everyone was under the impression that the Gestapo was extraditing them to some other part of the world. All of them were carried to the Mont Valerien where they were shot dead and the corpses were burnt.”
Rumors have that Madhavan had an opportunity to escape the execution by revealing that he was an Indian. However, he refused to reveal it and confidently admitted that he was French. He was tied to a pole and shot dead without a blindfold at Mont-Valérien, Paris. Similarly, other 45 prisoners were too executed and their bodies were burned. It is believed that Madhavan was the only Indian who was executed by the Nazi regime.
Till 1944, the Madhavan family remained unaware of the whereabouts of their son. It wasn’t until his family friend found his grave and sent a photograph to the family. They were promised by the authorities that they will name a lane after him, yet nothing is finalized to date.
Though Michilotte Madhavan died a hero, his story remains unknown. Being an Indian native, even our own country fails to recognize the heroics of brave Indians on foreign soil. It is time for us to recignise every soul that died in the struggle of freedon despite being of any nationality becaus freedom is everyone’s right.
Can Holocaust happen again?
Holocaust as a word means destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war. But mostly it is referred to the Jews genocide. Many people believe that the Holocaust never happened and in fact, are in complete denial. But others say that the Holocaust did happen and that it was just a thing of past. But more than that, most of us don’t seem to care and have already forgotten about what happened. Like the economic crises we face today is much more similar to the great depression that we saw 50 years ago.
If that was remembered we would have known at least few things that can help us prevent one. But that isn’t the case! Ignorance is what generally gaining rise in the society. The Holocaust can happen today for three main reasons, one- there are already many people are denying that it ever happened, second- there are so many more people in the world with many more powerful religions being in control, and lastly people are being a lot more racist, sexist, and prejudice in judgements.
There are three things we interestingly noticed after studying about holocaust- the facts, opinions and the lies. We already know about the holocaust done against Jew’s centuries back but we seem to forget about it completely only to witness mass slaughter of Syrians, Christians, or any other social group today. And now if this can be true what else can be true? Mass execution of Jews in Birkenau killed almost 1.6 million of people through mass slaughter, gas chambers, diseases and starvation during world war two.
You must be wondering that it’s okay and it was a thing of the past and now the society has progressed, so there’s nothing much to worry about. But today also we often find ourselves disputing against ethnic or cultural differences. You only have to scratch beneath the surface to find ignorance and distrust among the society and clashes we all have been dealing in our day to day lives. Because today we know that truth and facts are all under assault. Worryingly, 36% of us also think that if genocide were to happen most people would stand by and do nothing. The vast majority that is 79% do not realize that black people were also targets of the Nazis and nearly 50% had no idea that the Roman community, lesbians and gay men, and people with disabilities, were also persecuted. Britain today has more complex fault lines than the straight forward Judeo- Christian played upon by the fascism of the 1930’s.
We are surrounded by a dissonance of cultures, of which we often little know about. If hit hard with the ideology of hatred, our society would not just divide into two halves, instead it would shatter into a millions and thousands of pieces.