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Rediff.com  » News » Graves of Netaji's troops found in Austria

Graves of Netaji's troops found in Austria

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February 16, 2004 15:40 IST

The newly discovered graves of Indian soldiers in the small Austrian town of Sonthofan, close to the German border, highlight the role of those Indians who fought alongside Hitler's armies against the Allies during World War II.

The existence of the graves was revealed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's daughter Anita Pfaff, who lives in Germany and recently celebrated her father's 107th birth anniversary.

"These graves belong to Indian soldiers who were part of the Indian Legion under my father's command before he took charge
of the Indian National Army in southeast Asia," Pfaff told rediff.com

She said the graves were dug up at the behest of the US Army, which mistakenly thought they contained the bodies of American servicemen killed in the war.

Unfortunately, the dog tags were removed from the corpses during the excavation, so it has not been possible to identify the individual soldiers.

Explaining that the Indian Legion was made up of about 1,000 Indian prisoners of war captured by the Germans in Europe and North Africa, Pfaff said the Axis powers had planned for the Indian Legion and the INA to converge on British India from opposite directions.

"Members of the Legion swore an oath of allegiance both to my father and to the Fuehrer," she said. "But the Indian Legion did not have much of a future as the Africa campaign [headed by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel] did not come off. That was the reason my father moved off to the East because he did not expect anything to come off in the West."

Pfaff said she is still in touch with the German widow of one of the Indian Legion veterans. Eva Maria Mukerjea's husband Brijlal Mukerjea survived World War II and retired to Mumbai where he died more than a decade ago.

"She continued to live in Mumbai after her husband's death, but then she had to give up the freedom fighter's apartment given to him. She also became quite frail and so decided to return to Germany.

"Her health is okay, but she claims she is deteriorating. She seemed quite lucid when I spoke to her, but she's not getting any better, I would say."

Shyam Bhatia in London
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