Pho­to: Ver­zeich­nis der vom Euro­päi­schen Zen­tral­ko­mi­tee der Indi­schen Natio­na­lis­ten bis­her ver­öf­fent­lich­ten Schriften.

This is a trans­la­ted ver­si­on of the 2019 MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con ent­ry “‘Unter­neh­mun­gen und Auf­wie­ge­lun­gen’: Das Ber­li­ner Indi­sche Unab­hän­gig­keits­ko­mi­tee in den Akten des Poli­ti­schen Archivs des Aus­wär­ti­gen Amts  (1914–1920)”. The text was trans­la­ted by Rek­ha Rajan.

Table of Con­tents
Gene­sis of an Archi­val Hol­ding  |  India in Ger­man For­eign Poli­cy during the World War  |  The Indi­an Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tee: Goals and Net­works  |  “Unter­neh­mun­gen und Auf­wie­ge­lun­gen in den Gebie­ten unse­rer Fein­de. Indi­en” and other rele­vant file coll­ec­tions in the PA AA  |   End­no­tes  |   Secon­da­ry Literature

Genesis of an Archival Holding

Sup­port­ing anti-colo­ni­al forces glo­bal­ly was an important ele­ment of the Ger­man for­eign poli­cy stra­tegy during the First World War. It con­sis­ted not only of pro­pa­gan­da at various levels but also of finan­cial and mili­ta­ry- logi­sti­cal aid. The poli­cy aimed at picking up on and streng­thening anti-colo­ni­al sen­ti­ments, and thus ulti­m­ate­ly sup­port­ing unrest and uphe­avals against the war­ti­me adver­s­a­ries Eng­land, France and Rus­sia. In short, the poli­cy aimed to “ins­ti­ga­te” and “revo­lu­tio­ni­ze” ene­my territories.

In the Infor­ma­ti­on Ser­vice for the Ori­ent (Nach­rich­ten­stel­le für den Ori­ent, NfO) spe­ci­al­ly crea­ted at the For­eign Office, the ori­en­ta­list, archaeo­lo­gist and diplo­mat Max Frei­herr von Oppen­heim (1860–1946) initi­al­ly deve­lo­ped a spe­cial stra­tegy for “ins­ti­ga­ti­on” in Mus­lim are­as, but this was soon exten­ded to other colo­nies and ter­ri­to­ries under Bri­tish, French or Rus­si­an rule. The his­to­ri­an Fritz Fischer later cal­led this for­eign poli­cy pro­pa­gan­da stra­tegy a “revo­lu­tio­niza­ti­on pro­gram­me” and show­ed how “revo­lu­tio­niza­ti­on” was used by the Ger­man side as a means of warfare.

The aim of the war, to break up the Bri­tish and the Rus­si­an empire, was com­bi­ned with “revo­lu­tio­niza­ti­on” as a means of war­fa­re. France and Eng­land appeared to be most vul­nerable in their colou­red colo­ni­al peo­p­les while the dif­fe­rent for­eign natio­na­li­ties in Rus­sia offe­red a start­ing point for ins­ti­ga­ting insurgencies.

(Fischer 1984: 109)

The Poli­ti­cal Archi­ve of the Fede­ral For­eign Office, Ber­lin (PA AA), con­ta­ins exten­si­ve files on World War I, arran­ged by coun­try or regi­on and entit­led „Unter­neh­mun­gen und Auf­wie­ge­lun­gen gegen unse­re Fein­de”. The­se con­tain a detail­ed docu­men­ta­ti­on of Ger­man efforts to sup­port revo­lu­tio­na­ry and natio­na­list forces with an anti-colo­ni­al or anti-impe­ri­al thrust. The aims of such efforts direc­ted against the Bri­tish, French or Rus­si­an impe­ri­al powers were easi­ly com­pa­ti­ble with the mili­ta­ry and poli­ti­cal goals of Ger­man for­eign poli­cy. It was a glo­bal stra­tegy which also included neu­tral count­ries as the docu­ments in the For­eign Office archi­ves show. Under the title “Under­ta­kings and Ins­ti­ga­ti­ons against our Enemies” the hol­dings Welt­krieg 11 (WK 11) [World War 11] con­tain files on sup­port for anti-Rus­si­an acti­vi­ties in the Ukrai­ne (WK 11a); in Pol­and (WK 11b); in Rus­sia, espe­ci­al­ly in Fin­land (WK 11c) or in the Cau­ca­sus (WK 11d); sup­port for anti-colo­ni­al move­ments in Afgha­ni­stan and Per­sia (WK 11e); in “Egypt, Syria and Ara­bia” (WK 11g); Cana­da (WK 11i); among the Boers (WK 11j); among the Irish (WK 11k); “in the Afri­can ter­ri­to­ries of France” (WK 11l); “in Sibe­ria” (WK 11m); in Roma­nia (WK 11n); in Bul­ga­ria (WK 11o); in Ita­ly (WK 11p); in Spain (WK 11q); “in Abyssi­nia” (WK 11r); in Por­tu­gal (WK 11v) and in India (WK11f).

The For­eign Office and the Infor­ma­ti­on Ser­vice for the Ori­ent did not orga­ni­se the­se pro­pa­gan­di­stic, mili­ta­ry, logi­sti­cal or finan­cial “actions” alo­ne, but car­ri­ed them out with inter­na­tio­nal­ly ope­ra­ting net­works, which had an anti-colo­ni­al or anti-impe­ri­al ori­en­ta­ti­on. Cor­re­spon­ding groups in Ber­lin play­ed an important role, which, for their part, were inte­res­ted in wea­k­e­ning colo­ni­al powers from exi­le and in a pur­po­seful coope­ra­ti­on with Ger­ma­ny. To this end, the For­eign Office, the NfO, and Depart­ment IIIb of the Poli­ti­cal Sec­tion of the Depu­ty General’s Staff of the Army under Rudolf Nadol­ny (1873–1953) obser­ved and moni­to­red poten­ti­al coope­ra­ti­on part­ners and made use of alre­a­dy exis­ting orga­ni­sa­tio­nal struc­tures and net­works of anti-colo­ni­al groups in Euro­pe and North Ame­ri­ca. They sup­port­ed the for­ma­ti­on of inde­pen­dence com­mit­tees that were moni­to­red and con­trol­led by the Ger­mans, but which in turn tried to eva­de this moni­to­ring and con­trol and pur­sued their own poli­ti­cal strategies. 

The files in the PA AA with the title “Under­ta­kings and Ins­ti­ga­ti­ons against our Enemies. India” pro­vi­de infor­ma­ti­on about the ori­g­ins, com­po­si­ti­on and the acti­vi­ties of the Indi­an Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tee in Ber­lin (IIC), estab­lished in Sep­tem­ber 1914, about its col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the For­eign Office and with its asso­cia­ted inter­na­tio­nal net­works. Com­pared to other count­ries, India is the coun­try with the most exten­si­ve coll­ec­tion of docu­ments on the the­me “Ins­ti­ga­ti­ons” in the PA AA. The files on India within the WK 11 hol­dings begin with volu­me 1 in August 1914, with the shelf-mark R 21070; the last file in volu­me 48 with the shelf-mark R 21118 ends in April 1920. In addi­ti­on, the­re are four sub-files with details about peo­p­le for the same peri­od (R 21119 to R 21122).

India in German Foreign Policy during the World War

As the lar­gest colo­ny of the Bri­tish empire, India play­ed a spe­cial role in the stra­te­gic plans of the Ger­man For­eign Office. The gui­ding thought for the Ger­man side was that unrest in India would con­sider­a­b­ly wea­k­en the Bri­tish empire. Rele­vant assess­ments of the situa­ti­on were gathe­red from various sources. In ana­ly­ses, which the For­eign Office com­mis­sio­ned at the out­break of the war, Ger­man and Indi­an experts descri­bed the situa­ti­on in India and gave their opi­ni­on on the ques­ti­on that was most decisi­ve for the Ger­mans, name­ly whe­ther upri­sin­gs and revolts against the Eng­lish were to be expec­ted the­re in the near future and which forces should be sup­port­ed in this con­text. The Ger­man Ara­bist and Islam-scho­lar Josef Horo­vitz (1874–1931), who had pre­vious­ly taught for seve­ral years in the Muham­me­dan Ang­lo-Ori­en­tal Col­lege in Ali­garh, ela­bo­ra­ted on the spe­cial role of Indi­an Mus­lims in a memo­ran­dum. He was of the view:

[…] that the Moham­medans in North India repre­sent the more mas­cu­li­ne ele­ment and if one wan­ted to crea­te pro­blems in the nor­t­hern part of India it was essen­ti­al to influence this com­po­nent of the popu­la­ti­on, name­ly with refe­rence to the pan-Isla­mic move­ment and the affi­lia­ti­on to the Otto­man Cali­pha­te.[1]

The views of Indi­an poli­ti­cal acti­vists out­side the sub-con­ti­nent were also obtai­ned. One of them was Chem­pa­ka­ra­man Pil­lai (1891–1934), who had estab­lished and hea­ded the inter­na­tio­nal com­mit­tee Pro India in Zurich and who had moved from Switz­er­land to Ber­lin in Sep­tem­ber 1914. He sta­ted that an upri­sing was immi­nent in India.[2] Even Har Day­al (1884–1957), co-foun­der of the Gha­dar Move­ment (Eng­lish: Revo­lu­ti­on) in North Ame­ri­ca and who was alre­a­dy in Euro­pe by then, was con­vin­ced that a revo­lu­ti­on was to be expec­ted in India very soon.[3] Both Har Day­al and Pil­lai beca­me acti­ve mem­bers of the IIC. It was the first of seve­ral inde­pen­dence com­mit­tees of for­eign groups in exi­le in Ber­lin and was fol­lo­wed, among others, by com­mit­tees of Per­si­an, Egyp­ti­an, Geor­gi­an or Irish natio­na­lists (Bihl, 1975). The­se com­mit­tees were for­med with the help of the For­eign Office, espe­ci­al­ly the NfO. As far as the prac­ti­cal coope­ra­ti­on with Ger­man aut­ho­ri­ties was con­cer­ned, howe­ver, the­se com­mit­tees incre­asing­ly elu­ded Ger­man con­trol in the cour­se of the war and pur­sued dif­fe­rent, natio­na­list goals.

The picture is a photo portrait of Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, who was wearing a white headdress akin to a turban and a dark beard with a bushy moustache.
Fig. 1 Max Frei­herr von Oppen­heim. Source:

During the First World War, Ber­lin beca­me an important cent­re for the poli­ti­cal acti­vi­ties of Indi­an natio­na­lists and revo­lu­tio­na­ries. When the war bro­ke out Indi­ans, who were in Ger­ma­ny or in Euro­pe in the sum­mer of 1914, expec­ted that they would get acti­ve sup­port from Ger­ma­ny for their anti-colo­ni­al strugg­le. The Ger­man govern­ment aut­ho­ri­ties, for their part, asso­cia­ted this coope­ra­ti­on with the hope of streng­thening anti-Bri­tish forces and expan­ding their own posi­ti­ons during the war and bey­ond. This was in line with the domi­nant Ger­man mili­ta­ry and for­eign poli­cy stra­tegy, which Fritz Fischer cha­rac­te­ri­sed as the “pro­gram­me for revo­lu­ti­on”. In Fischer’s view, revo­lu­ti­on was inde­ed a goal of the war that was direc­ted at a sup­port of anti-colo­ni­al forces and thus a wea­k­e­ning of the Euro­pean colo­ni­al powers, i.e. Germany’s war­ti­me enemies (Fischer, 1984; Jenk­ins, 2013). One way to imple­ment this goal was by “ins­ti­ga­ting” anti-colo­ni­al groups glo­bal­ly. It included sup­port for Fle­mish, Irish or Per­si­an natio­na­lists as also coope­ra­ti­on with Geor­gi­an, Egyp­ti­an and Indi­an anti-colo­ni­al poli­ti­cal forces. The Ger­man “Jihad-stra­tegy”, initi­al­ly deve­lo­ped by Max von Oppen­heim and inten­se­ly dis­cus­sed in the inter­na­tio­nal aca­de­mic world (Loth, 2014; Lüd­ke, 2015; Zür­cher, 2016), was mere­ly one, albeit cen­tral, com­po­nent of a more com­pre­hen­si­ve impe­ri­al for­eign policy.

The Indian Independence Committee: Goals and Networks

A photo portrait of Virendranath Chattopadyaya in a three-piece suit with a chequered tie.
Fig. 2 Viren­dra­nath Chat­topa­dya­ya. Source:

 A look at the foun­ding pro­cess of the Indi­an Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tee makes it clear that the orga­nisers were able to draw on exis­ting resour­ces. Pre-exis­ting trans­lo­cal poli­ti­cal net­works and struc­tures were part­ly relo­ca­ted to Ber­lin and reor­ga­nis­ed. Other places like Lon­don and Paris, which had ear­lier play­ed an important role in poli­ti­cal work, beca­me too dan­ge­rous for (not only Indi­an) anti-colo­ni­al acti­vi­ties when the war began. With the help of the NfO, the Ber­lin Indi­an Com­mit­tee estab­lished cont­act with the Gha­dar Move­ment, which had come into being in 1913 in Cali­for­nia, as well as with exis­ting Euro­pean net­works of Indi­an revo­lu­tio­na­ries in Lon­don, Bern, Gen­e­va and Zurich in order to recruit mem­bers for the new­ly-estab­lished com­mit­tee. Chem­pa­ka­ra­man Pil­lai, who had estab­lished the Pro India Com­mit­tee in Switz­er­land and had also published the news­pa­per Pro India the­re; Viren­dra­nath Chat­topad­hya­ya, who had begun aca­de­mic stu­dies in Ger­ma­ny in 1914; as well as Har Day­al, who had co-foun­ded the Gha­dar Move­ment; and others pro­vi­ded fur­ther cont­acts. More than 50 names were asso­cia­ted with the IIC over time, inclu­ding Abhi­nash Chandra Bhat­tacha­rya, Tarach­and Roy, Mans­ur Ahmad, Mau­la­vi Bar­ka­tul­lah, Tara­k­nath Das, Biren­dra­nath Das­gupta, Bupen­dra Nath Dut­ta or the brot­hers Abdel Jab­bar Khei­ri and Abdel Sat­tar Khei­ri, who were main­ly acti­ve in Istan­bul (Man­ja­pra, 2014; Fischer-Tiné, 2015; Liebau, 2011a, 2014a; Oes­ter­held, 2004).

The IIC’s most important tasks, at least during the first half of the war, reflec­ted both the inte­rests of the anti-colo­ni­al acti­vists as well as the expec­ta­ti­ons and goals of the For­eign Office. One of the defi­ned goals was to orga­ni­se a mis­si­on to Afgha­ni­stan which would seek the Emir’s per­mis­si­on to use Afghan ter­ri­to­ry for laun­ching an attack on India with an armed Indi­an bat­tali­on. Mem­bers of the IIC were invol­ved in the famous Afgha­ni­stan Mis­si­on of 1915 led by Wer­ner Otto von Hen­tig (1886–1984). Fur­ther­mo­re, a mis­si­on to the Per­si­an Gulf was to be orga­nis­ed to con­vin­ce Indi­an sol­diers the­re to not fight against Tur­ki­sh tro­ops. The­re was also a plan to win over vol­un­teers for an Indi­an Legi­on by car­ry­ing out pro­pa­gan­da among the Indi­an pri­soners-of-war in Meso­po­ta­mia. Anti-Bri­tish pro­pa­gan­da was also to be orga­nis­ed among South Asi­an pri­soners-of-war in Ger­ma­ny in order to gather pri­soners to fight in the Tur­ki­sh army. Mem­bers of the Ber­lin Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tee took part in pro­du­cing the pro­pa­gan­da camp-news­pa­per “Hin­d­o­stan” in Hin­di and Urdu, which was dis­tri­bu­ted in the Halb­mond­la­ger (“Half Moon Camp”) in Wüns­dorf, a camp set up spe­ci­al­ly for Mus­lims (Oes­ter­held, 2004; Liebau 2011a/b; 2014 a/b; Jenkins/Liebau/Schmid, 2020).

A photo portrait of Lala Har Dayal in a suit with moustache and glasses.
Fig. 3 Lala Har Day­al. Source:;_an_interpretation_and_a_history_of_the_nationalist_movement_from_within%22_(1916)_(14781991012).jpg

The Tur­ki­sh side and the group of Indi­an natio­na­lists ope­ra­ting from Istan­bul play­ed a decisi­ve role in the func­tio­ning of the IIC. Short­ly after the com­mit­tee was for­med in Ber­lin, a simi­lar com­mit­tee was also estab­lished in Istan­bul. Mem­bers some­ti­mes swit­ched bet­ween the loca­ti­ons. Dis­pu­tes over posi­ti­ons, hier­ar­chies and stra­te­gies of action, as well as reli­gious dif­fe­ren­ces were the order of the day. Vary­ing assess­ments of the poli­ti­cal situa­ti­on in Euro­pe and in India and diver­se alli­ances led to fur­ther ten­si­ons. In the back­ground, the Ger­man Fede­ral For­eign Office and the Tur­ki­sh intel­li­gence ser­vice, Tashkilat‑e Mahs­usa, pul­led the strings. During the war, it beca­me obvious that the plans to revo­lu­tio­ni­ze India and the Ger­man Jihad-pro­pa­gan­da were not yiel­ding the expec­ted suc­cess. The efforts of Ger­man impe­ria­lism to instru­men­ta­li­ze anti-colo­ni­al free­dom move­ments had fai­led. The com­mit­tees rea­li­zed that the expec­ta­ti­ons they had from the Ger­man sup­port would not be ful­fil­led. The IIC reac­ted by loo­king for new places to work in Switz­er­land, the Net­her­lands or Swe­den. In 1917, Viren­dra­nath Chat­topad­hya­ya ope­ned a new office in Stock­holm, which ope­ra­ted under the name Indis­ka Natio­nal­kom­mit­té­en. This new com­mit­tee enga­ged in a dis­pu­te with tho­se left in the IIC in Ber­lin about who had the aut­ho­ri­ty to repre­sent the Indi­an natio­na­lists in Euro­pe (Baroo­ah, 2004).[4]

The histo­ry of the Ber­lin Indi­an Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tee not only offers insights into Indi­an anti-colo­ni­al move­ments out­side the South Asi­an sub-con­ti­nent and into Ger­man for­eign poli­cy stra­te­gies during the First World War. Mem­bers of the com­mit­tee later found their pur­po­se in various ideo­lo­gi­cal, reli­gious or poli­ti­cal con­texts. Recent stu­dies that focus on the point of view of the dif­fe­rent Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tees are now also exami­ning the links bet­ween the­se com­mit­tees bey­ond the stra­te­gic inten­ti­ons of the Ger­mans (Jenk­ins, Liebau, Schmid, 2020). In order to be able to sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly trace the­se his­to­ries, it is neces­sa­ry to ana­ly­ze fur­ther archi­val hol­dings of dif­fe­rent natio­nal and poli­ti­cal ori­g­ins in India, Eng­land, Tur­key, Swe­den or Russia.

A portrait of Chempakaraman Pillai with chin beard.
Fig. 4 Chem­pa­ka­ra­man Pil­lai. Source:

The con­cept for the Ger­man inci­te­ment stra­tegy can be tra­ced back to a memo­ran­dum pre­pared by Max von Oppen­heim, the “Denk­schrift betref­fend die Revo­lu­tio­nie­rung der isla­mi­schen Gebie­te unse­rer Fein­de” (1914) (von Oppen­heim, 2018) [Memo­ran­dum con­cer­ning the revo­lu­tio­niza­ti­on of the Isla­mic ter­ri­to­ries of our enemies]. Short­ly after the out­break of war, Oppen­heim had alre­a­dy poin­ted out to the For­eign Office the neces­si­ty of ins­ti­ga­ting anti-colo­ni­al forces through inten­si­ve pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns, as well as finan­cial and mili­ta­ry sup­port. He sug­gested the foun­da­ti­on of an insti­tu­ti­on espe­ci­al­ly geared to this pur­po­se, the Infor­ma­ti­on Ser­vice for the Ori­ent. While, at a first glan­ce, this appeared to be a trans­la­ti­on and infor­ma­ti­on office, it was in fact an insti­tu­ti­on of far-rea­ching pro­pa­gan­di­stic and intel­li­gence signi­fi­can­ce. Here, stra­te­gies for pro­pa­gan­da were deve­lo­ped at various levels: in the colo­nies and depen­dent ter­ri­to­ries, among colo­ni­al sol­diers at the front and in pri­soner-of-war camps as well as in neu­tral count­ries. Rele­vant mate­ri­al was pre­pared, prin­ted and dis­se­mi­na­ted in various lan­guages. The NfO was staf­fed both by Ger­mans (bes­i­des diplo­mats, also aca­de­mics, mis­sio­na­ries, busi­ness­men) and by repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the various colo­nis­ed and depen­dent regi­ons. Along with the NfO, Depart­ment III b of the poli­ti­cal Sec­tion of the Depu­ty Gene­ral Staff under Rudolf Nadol­ny was respon­si­ble for decis­i­ons and stra­te­gies in the sphe­re of pro­pa­gan­da. All acti­vi­ties thus took place with the appr­oval and under the con­trol of the For­eign Office and the Supre­me Army Command.

Unternehmungen und Aufwiegelungen in den Gebieten unserer Feinde. Indien” and other relevant file collections in the PA AA

The files of the 48-volu­me sub-coll­ec­tions WK 11f titled Unter­neh­mun­gen und Auf­wie­ge­lun­gen in den Gebie­ten unse­rer Fein­de. Indi­en(Under­ta­kings and ins­ti­ga­ti­ons in the ter­ri­to­ries of our enemies. India) belong to the R‑holdings of the Poli­ti­cal Archi­ve of the Fede­ral For­eign Office, which include docu­ments till 1945. The­se include papers for the peri­od of August 1914-April 1920, which reflect Ger­man for­eign poli­cy efforts to pro­mo­te anti-colo­ni­al deve­lo­p­ments in and with refe­rence to India, the lar­gest Bri­tish colo­ny. The docu­ments com­pri­se cor­re­spon­dence, reports and assess­ments, news­pa­per clip­pings, pro­pa­gan­da mate­ri­al as well as docu­ments on admi­nis­tra­ti­ve pro­ce­du­res. In their enti­re­ty, they give an over­view of the work of the IIC and of the poli­ti­cal acti­vists asso­cia­ted with the com­mit­tee, their posi­ti­ons, inten­ti­ons and con­flicts – view­ed and fil­te­red through the con­trol and per­spec­ti­ve of the Ger­man side.


For the first months of the World War, the docu­ments deal first­ly with enqui­ries about Indi­ans wil­ling to work with the Ger­man side. The For­eign Office obtai­ned infor­ma­ti­on about Indi­ans living in Ger­ma­ny as well as from diplo­mats in dif­fe­rent count­ries, for exam­p­le in Switz­er­land. Indi­ans like Chem­pa­ka­ra­man Pil­lai, who lived in Zurich, or Abhi­nash Bhat­tacha­rya, who was stu­dy­ing in Hal­le, also sought cont­act with Ger­man govern­ment aut­ho­ri­ties to explo­re chan­ces for coope­ra­ti­on. They gave fur­ther recom­men­da­ti­ons for cont­acts and asses­sed poli­ti­cal acti­vists who could be con­side­red for mem­ber­ship of the com­mit­tee. The­se assess­ments could be in the form of recom­men­da­ti­ons, but they could also con­tain war­nings. Second­ly, in the first months the­re are some reports about the situa­ti­on in India. The cen­tral ques­ti­on was: How does the aut­hor assess the poli­ti­cal situa­ti­on, and does he see pos­si­bi­li­ties for car­ry­ing out anti-colo­ni­al upri­sin­gs in the coun­try? The aut­hors of the­se sta­tus reports were Ger­man busi­ness­men, mis­sio­na­ries or aca­de­mics as well as Indi­ans who wan­ted to coope­ra­te with the Ger­man side. In Sep­tem­ber 1914, Max von Oppen­heim repor­ted that “his” India Com­mit­tee had been set up in Ber­lin.[5]


Fur­ther­mo­re, the files con­tain exten­si­ve cor­re­spon­dence bet­ween the For­eign Office in Ber­lin and various Ger­man diplo­ma­tic mis­si­ons abroad, espe­ci­al­ly in Tur­key, but also the cor­re­spon­dence bet­ween the IIC and the For­eign Office, bet­ween indi­vi­du­al Indi­ans and the For­eign Office. This cor­re­spon­dence con­cer­ned the orga­ni­sa­tio­nal and per­son­nel work, main­ly regar­ding the ques­ti­on of pro­pa­gan­da and in rela­ti­on to the various poli­ti­cal-mili­ta­ry mis­si­ons in which repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the IIC were invol­ved. The files also con­tain num­e­rous docu­ments on leng­thy admi­nis­tra­ti­ve and decis­i­on-making pro­ces­ses with refe­rence to the pre­pa­ra­ti­on and exe­cu­ti­on of the­se acti­vi­ties. They deal with the logi­stics of the approach, inclu­ding finan­cial and per­son­nel-rela­ted con­side­ra­ti­ons that were dis­cus­sed bet­ween the For­eign Office, the Depart­ment III B of the Army Gene­ral Staff and various offices such as embas­sies, mis­si­ons and consulates.


A fur­ther cate­go­ry of docu­ments are the sta­tus reports, working reports, reports on sur­veil­lan­ce of indi­vi­du­als and memo­ran­da. The files con­tain, for exam­p­le, seve­ral detail­ed reports about the work of the Indi­an Com­mit­tee in Istan­bul or on the so-cal­led Bagh­dad mis­si­on and the futi­le attempts to estab­lish an Indi­an Legi­on in Meso­po­ta­mia. From 1917 onwards, the­re are also reports from the Stock­holm branch of the com­mit­tee hea­ded by Viren­dra­nath Chat­topad­hya­ya. The­se reports, writ­ten by repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the Indi­an Com­mit­tee, were com­men­ted upon by the rele­vant Ger­man aut­ho­ri­ties and pro­vi­ded with ins­truc­tions for action. Some Indi­ans were also pla­ced under obser­va­ti­on on the orders of the For­eign Office. Thus, Hel­muth von Gla­sen­app, for exam­p­le, inves­ti­ga­ted the scho­lar and revo­lu­tio­na­ry Shyam­ji Krishnav­ar­ma (1857–1930) living in Zurich, or sent reports about the lec­tures given by Chem­pa­ka­ra­man Pil­lai in dif­fe­rent Ger­man cities. The For­eign Office also gene­ra­ted sepa­ra­te files for some per­sons, for exam­p­le for Chat­topad­hya­ya. The­se are in the pre­vious­ly men­tio­ned sub-files “Per­so­na­lia” (R 21119-R21122). 

Further Files

It is not only the India-rela­ted files in the hol­dings WK 11 “Unter­neh­mun­gen und Auf­wie­ge­lun­gen” which pro­vi­de infor­ma­ti­on about the work of the Ber­lin-based IIC. The­re are refe­ren­ces in the files on other count­ries, espe­ci­al­ly in tho­se for Per­sia (WK 11e), Egypt (WK 11g) or Ire­land (WK 11k). The IIC col­la­bo­ra­ted with repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the­se inde­pen­dence com­mit­tees in various are­as. Infor­ma­ti­on about the pro­pa­gan­da work of the IIC among Indi­an pri­soners-of-war is available under the file num­ber WK 11s “Unter­neh­mun­gen und Auf­wie­ge­lun­gen gegen unse­re Fein­de – Tätig­keit in den Gefan­ge­nen­la­gern Deutsch­lands” (Under­ta­kings and ins­ti­ga­ti­ons against our enemies – work in the pri­soner-of-war camps in Ger­ma­ny). The­se files begin with the shelf-mark R 21244 in Octo­ber 1914 and end with R 21262 in Decem­ber 1919. The spe­cial work by some mem­bers of the IIC for the Infor­ma­ti­on Ser­vice for the Ori­ent (NfO), inclu­ding the col­la­bo­ra­ti­on in brin­ging out the camp news­pa­per Hin­d­o­stan in Hin­di and Urdu, is reflec­ted in the files of the NfO. The 27 volu­mes under the file num­ber Deutsch­land 126 adh.1 begin with the shelf-mark R 1510 in Janu­ary 1915 and end with R 1536 in Decem­ber 1919.


[1]PA AA, R 21080, von Oppen­heim in a let­ter accom­pany­ing a memo­ran­dum aut­ho­red by Josef Horo­vitz dis­cus­sing the situa­ti­on of Indi­an Mus­lims, 11. March 1915.
[2]PA AA, R 21070, tele­gram from the impe­ri­al envoy in Switz­er­land, Frei­herr von Rom­berg, to the For­eign Office, 8. Sep­tem­ber 1914.
[3]PA AA, R 21071, tele­gram from Frei­herr von Wan­gen­heim to the For­eign Office, Kon­stan­ti­no­pel, 13. Sep­tem­ber 1914.
[4]PA AA, R 21111, report of the Indis­ke Natio­nal­kom­mit­té­en in Stock­holm addres­sed to the Indi­an Com­mit­tee Ber­lin-Char­lot­ten­burg, 17. Janu­ary 1918.
[5]PA AA, R 21071, note from Max von Oppen­heim to Otto Gün­ther von Wesen­donk, 11. Sep­tem­ber 1914.

Secondary Literature

Baroo­ah, Niro­de K., Chat­to: The life and times of an Indi­an anti-impe­ria­list in Euro­pe. New Delhi, Oxford: OUP, 2004.

Bihl, Wolf­die­ter, Die Kau­ka­sus-Poli­tik der Mit­tel­mäch­te. Teil 1: Ihre Basis in der Ori­ent-Poli­tik und ihre Aktio­nen 1914–1917. Wien: Böhlau, 1975.

Bose, A. C., Indi­an revo­lu­tio­na­ries abroad: 1905–1927. New Delhi: Nor­t­hern Book Cent­re, 2002. 

Con­ze, Eck­art, Das Aus­wär­ti­ge Amt: Vom Kai­ser­reich bis zur Gegen­wart. Mün­chen: Ver­lag C.H. Beck, 2013.

Fischer, Fritz, Griff nach der Welt­macht: Die Kriegs­po­li­tik des kai­ser­li­chen Deutsch­land 1914–1918. Düs­sel­dorf: Dros­te Ver­lag, 1984.

Fischer-Tiné, Harald, “The other side of inter­na­tio­na­lism: Switz­er­land as a hub of mili­tant anti-colo­nia­lism c. 1910–1920”. In: Patri­cia Purtschert and Harald Fischer-Tiné (eds.), Colo­ni­al Switz­er­land: rethin­king colo­nia­lism from the mar­gins. Basingsto­ke: Pal­gra­ve Macmil­lan, 2015, pp. 221- 258.

Jenk­ins, Jen­ni­fer, “Fritz Fischer’s ‘Pro­gram­me for Revo­lu­ti­on’: Impli­ca­ti­ons for a Glo­bal Histo­ry of Ger­ma­ny in the First World War”. Jour­nal of Con­tem­po­ra­ry Histo­ry 2013, 48: pp. 397–417.

Jenk­ins, Jen­ni­fer, Hei­ke Liebau and Laris­sa Schmid, “Trans­na­tio­na­lism and insur­rec­tion: inde­pen­dence com­mit­tees, anti-colo­ni­al net­works, and Germany’s glo­bal war”. Jour­nal of Glo­bal Histo­ry 12, no. 1 (2020): pp. 61–79.

Liebau, Hei­ke, “The Ger­man For­eign Office, Indi­an emi­grants and pro­pa­gan­da efforts among the ‘Sepoys’”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds.) ‘When the war began we heard of seve­ral kings’: South Asi­an pri­soners of war in World War I Ger­ma­ny. New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 96–129.

——–, “Das Deut­sche Aus­wär­ti­ge Amt, indi­sche Emi­gran­ten und pro­pa­gan­dis­ti­sche Bestre­bun­gen unter den süd­asia­ti­schen Kriegs­ge­fan­ge­nen im ‘Halb­mond­la­ger’”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau, Ravi Ahu­ja (eds.) Sol­dat Ram Singh und der Kai­ser. Indi­sche Kriegs­ge­fan­ge­ne in deut­schen Pro­pa­gan­da­la­gern 1914–1918. Hei­del­berg: Drau­pa­di Ver­lag, 2014, pp. 109–143.

——–, “Hin­d­o­stan – a camp news­pa­per for South Asi­an pri­soners of World war One in Ger­ma­ny”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds.) ‘When the war began we heard of seve­ral kings’: South Asi­an pri­soners of war in World War I Ger­ma­ny. New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 231–249.

——–, “Hin­d­o­stan. Eine Lager­zei­tung für süd­asia­ti­sche Kriegs­ge­fan­ge­ne in Deutsch­land 1915–1918”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau, Ravi Ahu­ja (eds.) Sol­dat Ram Singh und der Kai­ser. Indi­sche Kriegs­ge­fan­ge­ne in deut­schen Pro­pa­gan­da­la­gern 1914–1918. Hei­del­berg: Drau­pa­di Ver­lag 2014,  pp. 261–285.

Loth, Wil­fried, Ers­ter Welt­krieg und Dschi­had. Die Deut­schen und die Revo­lu­tio­nie­rung des Ori­ents. Mün­chen: Olden­bourg Ver­lag, 2014.

Lüd­ke, Til­man, Jihad made in Ger­ma­ny: Otto­man and Ger­man pro­pa­gan­da and intel­li­gence ope­ra­ti­ons in the First World War. Müns­ter: LIT, 2015.

Man­ja­pra, Kris, Age of ent­an­gle­ment: Ger­man and Indi­an intellec­tu­als across empire. Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2014.

Purtschert, Patri­cia, Fischer-Tiné, Harald (eds.), Colo­ni­al Switz­er­land. Rethin­king colo­nia­lism from the mar­gins. Cam­bridge Impe­ri­al and Post-Colo­ni­al Stu­dies. Basingsto­ke: Pal­gra­ve Macmil­lan, 2015.

Oes­ter­held, Frank, “‘Der Feind mei­nes Fein­des ist mein Freund.’ Zur Tätig­keit des Indi­an Inde­pen­dence Com­mit­tee (IIC) wäh­rend des Ers­ten Welt­krie­ges in Ber­lin”. MA The­sis, Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty Ber­lin, 2004.

Oppen­heim, Max Frei­herr von, Denk­schrift betref­fend die Revo­lu­tio­nie­rung der isla­mi­schen Gebie­te unse­rer Fein­de, her­aus­ge­ge­ben von Stef­fen Kopetz­ky. Ber­lin: Ver­lag Das kul­tu­rel­le Gedächt­nis, 2018.

Zür­cher, Erik-Jan (ed.), Jihad and Islam in World War I: stu­dies on the Otto­man jihad on the cen­ten­ary of Snouck Hurgronje’s “Holy War made in Ger­ma­ny”. Lei­den: Lei­den Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2016.

Hei­ke Liebau, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent, Berlin

MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con

Edi­tors: Anan­di­ta Baj­pai, Hei­ke Liebau
Lay­out: Mon­ja Hof­mann, Nico Putz
Host: ZMO, Kirch­weg 33, 14129 Ber­lin
Cont­act: archival.reflexicon [at]

ISSN 2628–5029