Berlin 1916: A letter from Chatto by Suchetana Chattopadhyay

On 29 July 1916, while the First World War was raging, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya (1880-1937), aka, 'Chatto' wrote this letter to a high-ranking official, probably in the German Foreign Office. As members of the Indian revolutionary circle in

Berlin and Europe, he and his companions were hoping to overthrow British Empire in India with the help of imperial Germany. Agnes Smedley and the turn to communism were still some years away.

The address of the Berlin Committee given in this typed letter and signed by Chatto in violet ink was that of a tall building. It was in ruins after the Second World War; the photograph is from 1952 and preserved in a Berlin Museum.


Berlin-Charlottenburg, 29 July 1916

Dear Sir,

Despite the fact that hundreds of newspaper articles and other texts have been published and continue to be published about the Orient, especially about India, we have come to the conclusion that in Germany representations which are largely incorrect are in circulation, mostly from England and obviously catering to the interests of the English.

Countering such representations and especially, providing clarification about India among the educated circle of Germans to secure their sympathy for the people of India is our principal endeavour. For the time being, we have only the means of written propaganda at our disposal. Therefore, we take the leave to present two copies of our clarifying texts to you and indeed in English, since from experience we have learnt that men of knowledge prefer original versions to translations. However, should you wish to possess a copy of the German publication, it would be our pleasure to provide a free copy to you on request.

Yours respectfully,

Virendranath Chattopadhyaya
Secretary, Indian Association.

(Translated from German by Dr. Baijayanti Ray, Frankfurt. Letter scanned by Dr. Bithika Sahana.)