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Peace and Conflict Studies


At the onset of World War II, Mohandas Gandhi wrote two separate letters to Adolf Hitler. Though neither letter ever reached the Führer, both are readily accessible, via Internet, to 21st Century readers, for whom the content of the letters may prove both alarming and instructive. Why did Gandhi address the chief Nazi as his ‘Dear Friend’? Why did he write with such profound respect and humility when addressing a man accused of ‘monstrous’ acts? Did he really believe his appeals would persuade Hitler to end the war?

This article will examine Gandhi’s letters to Hitler as notable examples of the Mahatma’s everyday practice of peace. His sympathetic approach to the Führer, models a deep practice of nonviolent values which, while quite shocking to those of us working in today’s ‘woke’ environment, can, if we approach it with open minds, provide an opportunity to explore the strategic value of Gandhi’s principled methods. Understanding the nonviolent strategy we find deeply embedded in these short letters can offer us useful guidance on how to talk to people we disagree with, how to restore community relationships in our increasingly fractured and polarised societies, and how to establish today’s truths as we understand them in a world where the existence of truth is increasingly debated. If we approach our opponents as ‘dear friends’, we can restore and rebuild nonviolence as the foundation of our own peace praxis.