The Wiesenthal Center demanded that Pegasus Books remove the book from circulation and from its online store.
By Tamara Zieve
Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela would likely be dismayed at being put in the same category as Adolf Hitler – but that is exactly the case in an Indian children’s book about “inspiring leaders.”
“In the time that feels devoid of great leadership, we have found men and women who will inspire you,” reads the product description of the book Leaders on the Pegasusforkids website, published by Pegasus, an imprint of India’s B. Jain publishing house.
“Some of them are famous, others little known, but all of them energize their followers and try to make the world better,” the description says. “The book talks about 11 leaders who have devoted their lives for the betterment of their country and people and emerged with great leadership at the time of crisis.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the publishing group for selling the book at the Krithi International Book Fair in Cochin as well as on their website.
“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,” the center said in a statement.
“Adolf Hitler was a visionary – his vision almost destroyed our planet; started WWII – which left tens of millions dead and mass-murdered six million Jews during the Nazi Holocaust,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of the Jewish human rights NGO’s global social action agenda.
“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,” Cooper said.
The Wiesenthal Center demanded that Pegasus Books remove the book from circulation and from its online store. As of Sunday, the book listing still appeared on the website.
Annshu Juneja, a publishing manager at the imprint, told The New York Times that Hitler was featured because, like Obama, Mandela and 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 also told the Times that it had not previously received any complaints about the book, including from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In addition to the aforementioned leaders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, British statesman Winston Churchill and the controversial French leader Napoleon Bonaparte are among the 11 featured leaders.
Also included is incumbent State Counselor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. She has recently drawn fire for her silence over the Rohingya crisis, for which Myanmar has been accused of ethnic cleansing.
Pegasus lists offices in the United Kingdom, UAE, Mexico, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritius and Solomon Islands.