3: Everything That Was Good in Us
Freda and Bedi made public their engagement early in 1933, in their penultimate term at Oxford. 'This was' -- she said -- 'a minor sensation'. It was certainly front-page news for the Oxford Mail, which published a photograph of the couple, apparently taken in the parks with both wearing scarves to keep out the winter cold.  Word also reached the student journal Isis. Its 'Dovecotes' gossip column, with its ear to the ground at the women's colleges, reported that both Freda and Bedi 'are, of course, prominent members of the October Club. Miss Houlston, who wears a very lovely acquamarine solitaire on her ring finger, told me ... that they will be married soon after Schools [final exams] and that they will live in India, where she hopes to carve out for herself a career in the writing of books about that land of mystery and promise, henceforth her own.'  Even at this early date, long before she had ever set foot there, Freda was coming to regard India as her country.
The couple had friends and allies among the academic community in Oxford -- notably Professor Alfred Zimmern
and his wife, Lucie, of whom Freda had written so fondly in her article for the Calcutta Review. That affection was clearly reciprocated. Among the Zimmern papers at the Bodleian Library, amid letters from the prime minister, arrangements for summer schools in Switzerland and a mass of academic correspondence, is a postcard sent from 'Freda and Bedi' to Madame Zimmern in May 1933. 'Your "naughty children" want to see you. When could we come during this week?' The Zimmerns were away, so Freda followed up with a longer missive:
This is just a small note literally on the eve of Schools to tell you that our marriage has been fixed for June 21st at 11.30 A.M. My mother and father are coming up for it, but unfortunately my brother will be on the sea 'somewhere off Scotland.' We are both of us very disappointed that he can't come.
We are dividing our time at present between the last revision for Schools, and a search for a flat as we intend remaining a few weeks here until the Viva is over ...
We shall remember you both on the 21st-and hope you will remember us. 
Both Freda and Bedi signed the note.
'Barely a week after finishing Final Schools,' Freda wrote a decade later, 'we were married in the dark and poky little Oxford Registry Office. The registrar looked sour and pointedly omitted to shake hands with us. We came out, with my parents and a cousin from India, into a drenching downpour of rain ... "Don't worry," said my husband. "Rain is auspicious for an Indian bride."'  A photograph on the front page of the Oxford Mail showed Baba Bedi, wearing jacket and tie and pugri-style turban, holding an umbrella over his new wife. 'The bride, a tall slim girl, looked charming in blue and white, the dress having the merest suggestion of white epaulettes. She wore a small white cap at a fashionable angle and had a buttonhole of carnations.'  The Derby Evening Telegraph reported that the couple were planning to honeymoon in Italy before moving to Berlin and eventually settling in Lahore. 'They refused to discuss their plans and shunned publicity.'  As well as Freda's mother and stepfather, the other family member in attendance was Kuldip Chand Bedi, the groom's cousin, who later also married an English woman; few if any of their Oxford friends were present. There was a 'very simple' wedding breakfast -- 'we both decided that we were not going to have a big party or make a fuss' -- and then the newlyweds went back to Bedi's lodgings....
Freda and Bedi began their married life in his room at Summertown in north Oxford. They had to wait and see if they had a viva, an oral exam sometimes required if the written papers left some uncertainty about the class of degree to be awarded. Both would have been disappointed by their degrees. Freda's 'third' was at least one step up from Bedi's fourth class honours, a classification which no longer exists and suggests a bare sufficiency of the requirements for an honours degree.
This academic setback didn't dampen Bedi's ambition to study for a doctorate. He secured a research scholarship -- in Berlin. By the summer of 1933, Hitler was already Germany's Chancellor and the Nazis were consolidating their hold on power. In July, they became the only legal political party. The communists, a mass party in Germany which attracted millions of votes, were an early target of the Nazis. They were forced underground-their leadership, and many of their elected representatives, were arrested. The German capital was not a comfortable prospect for a mixed race couple with a record of communist activity. 'The great question was: should we go? -- because the menace of fascism was then becoming very real,' Freda recalled. Her new husband thought it was worth the risk.
They decided to make their way to Germany in a leisurely manner, and to have a honeymoon holidaying across Europe with Berlin the final destination. It was a honeymoon with a difference -- Freda and Bedi travelled with a friend, an Indian from East Africa who had a car and was a keen driver. 'So we three, with a couple of tents, wandered around Europe -- in France and Belgium and Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Italy. We had a really beautiful car-and-tent tour.' One striking photo in the family album shows the couple on the beach in bathing suits. In mid-August, Freda sent a postcard from Italy to her college friend Olive Chandler. 'Tour all OK. Very brown + well. I like Venice but it's xxxx hot. Am leaving later for Dolomites + Austria (Vienna). Thence to Germany.' Her forwarding address was the Thomas Cook's office in the heart of Berlin. 
The newlyweds arrived in the German capital a few weeks later and Bedi formally enrolled at university in October. By then, Freda was pregnant. They managed to get a quiet place to live a little out of the centre towards Potsdam, bordering the Wannsee lakes. 'It was a really lovely place -- a charming German cottage with a lovely garden, and we had some very very happy months there preparing for the child.' This was their focus -- getting ready for the start of a family so early in their married life. Politics took a back seat, though as Hitler tightened his grip on power, the signs of racial intolerance were evident all around.
We led a very simple life. Sometimes we used to go to the big markets on Alexanderplatz to buy cheap fruit and vegetables and I remember one day coming back triumphantly with some beautiful Jaffa oranges and presented a plate-full to my landlady. But she turned up her nose and said: I don't eat Jewish oranges. So then I found out that the landlady was also a Nazi, which I didn't know before. It was all around us. 
She ventured to the university for her first lessons in Hindi from a Punjabi professor. 'In our class there were just three people -- two elderly ladies, one a representative of the German aristocracy, and one, although I didn't know, the wife of a Nazi. But both charming women. Politics never entered into our lives, we were just learning Hindi and we were trying to understand something at the same time of Indian philosophy.'
Another pressing priority was establishing a relationship, albeit at a distance, with her widowed mother-in-law, who spoke no English. Freda was clear from the start that with an Indian husband, she was now Indian too. After her wedding day, she made a point of dressing in Indian clothes -- often a sari, not the simplest of garments to wear. Her letters to Bhabooji, the family's name for Bedi's mother, display the charm and emotional intelligence which served her so well throughout her life. Writing in early October 1933, when Berlin must have been arrestingly new, Freda told her mother-in-law that 'our life seems to be taking on a more solid + peaceful complexion again. I will write to you as regularly as I can. It is a very great pleasure to me that you want me to write and if it gives my dear Mother pleasure I shall be delighted to do so.' She wrote of the regret in having to wait another year before meeting her Indian family, her love for her husband, and their plans for 'a quiet and studious life' in Berlin as a preparation for their work in India. 
What Bedi's mother would have been seeking is some sense of whether her new daughter-in-law would fit in with her Indian family or would lead her son away from it. She will have found Freda's letters reassuring:
you will want to know the little details of our life. They mean so much to a woman, I know. I am like it myself. I wear my Saree as often as I can, and only when we are leading a particularly strenuous life, as in camping or househunting, do I leave it of[ I have some amusing experiences. I wore it on all the frontiers and received an undue amount of deference from Customs officials; I wore it in towns and every waiter in the restaurant came to my feet ... I am very fond of wearing the Saree. Pyare tried to teach me himself, but being a man, he did not at all understand how women do it (bless him!) and so I was taught both by an Indian girl student at Oxford, + particularly by a very nice Indian lady, Mrs Haji ... who was visiting London
And as a further affectionate touch, Freda signed her name in Punjabi script.
A month later, the dutiful daughter-in-law was writing again -- about the warm underwear that she made sure Bedi wore to guard against the chilly Berlin winter and the sweater that her mother was knitting him for Christmas.
Now about the most important thing. You will have read in PL's letter about the baby. I am very, very happy about it, as is natural, because I love PL so much. So you will have a small grandchild to spoil when we come back to India. There is a great deal of preparation to be made, and this is all the heavier because I am alone in Berlin, separated from both you and my own mother. But it will be a labour of love.
'This is a very long letter', she concluded, 'and whoever translates it to you will have a lot of trouble. But I expect you like letters as long as possible.' 
Alongside Freda's personal and emotional ties to India was a political and intellectual commitment. She saw her marriage to Bedi as in part a shared collaboration; their purpose was to support India's freedom movement by personal advocacy and by creating wider awareness of the nationalist case. This joint endeavour took firm root in Oxford and persisted in Berlin and by the time the couple left the German capital they had served as the originators and editors of an impressive series of books about contemporary India, an achievement the more remarkable given that both editors were in their early twenties and one had never stepped on Indian soil.
Their first title was a selection of Gandhi's writings published in 1933 as a slim volume of eighty pages. It was in German and with a preface by a renowned Protestant theologian Rudolf Otto. The book bore the title Gandhi: Der Heilige und der Staatsmann, (Gandhi: the saint and the statesman). Freda and Bedi selected the items, which were variously spiritual and campaigning in tone, and wrote an introduction dated November 1932, early in their final academic year in Oxford. How it came about, and how it was received, is unclear -- it could well have been at Alfred Zimmern's initiative
. Of all their writings, this is the title most easily available in the original edition -- so it seems to have sold well.
India was one of the primary concerns of both the Cecil Bloc and Milner Group. The latter probably devoted more time and attention to India than to any other subject. This situation reached its peak in 1919, and the Government of India Act of that year is very largely a Milner Group measure in conception, formation, and execution....
The decade 1919-1929 was chiefly occupied with efforts to get Gandhi to permit the Indian National Congress to cooperate in the affairs of government, so that its members and other Indians could acquire the necessary experience to allow the progressive realization of self-government. The Congress Party, as we have said, boycotted the elections of 1920 and cooperated in those of 1924 only for the purpose of wrecking them. Nonetheless, the system worked, with the support of moderate groups, and the British extended one right after another in steady succession. Fiscal autonomy was granted to India in 1921, and that country at once adopted a protective tariff, to the considerable injury of British textile manufacturing. The superior Civil Services were opened to Indians in 1924. Indians were admitted to Woolwich and Sandhurst in the same year, and commissions in the Indian Army were made available to them.
The appointment of Baron Irwin of the Milner Group to be Viceroy in 1926 — an appointment in which, according to A. C. Johnson's biography Viscount Halifax (1941), "the influence of Geoffrey Dawson and other members of The Times' editorial staff" may have played a decisive role — was the chief step in the effort to achieve some real progress under the Act of 1919 before that Act came under the critical examination of another Royal Commission, scheduled for 1929. The new Viceroy's statement of policy, made in India, 17 July 1926, was, according to the same source, embraced by The Times in an editorial "which showed in no uncertain terms that Irwin's policy was appreciated and underwritten by Printing House Square."
Unfortunately, in the period 1924-1931 the India Office was not in control of either the Milner Group or Cecil Bloc. For various reasons, of which this would seem to be the most important, coordination between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy and between Britain and the Indian nationalists broke down at the most crucial moments….
The Indian States had remained as backward, feudalistic, and absolutist enclaves, within the territorial extent of British India and bound to the British Raj by individual treaties and agreements. As might be expected from the Milner Group, the solution which they proposed was federation. They hoped that devolution in British India would secure a degree of provincial autonomy that would make it possible to bind the provinces and the Indian States within the same federal structure and with similar local autonomy. However, the Group knew that the Indian States could not easily be federated with British India until their systems of government were raised to some approximation of the same level. For this reason, and to win the Princes over to federation, Lord Irwin had a large number of personal consultations with the Princes in 1927 and 1928. At some of these he lectured the Princes on the principles of good government in a fashion which came straight from the basic ideology of the Milner Group. The memorandum which he presented to them, dated 14 June 1927 and published in Johnson's biography, Viscount Halifax, could have been written by the Kindergarten. This can be seen in its definitions of the function of government, its emphasis on the reign of law, its advocacy of devolution, its homily on the duty of princes, its separation of responsibility in government from democracy in government, and its treatment of democracy as an accidental rather than an essential characteristic of good government.
The value of this preparatory work appeared at the first Round Table Conference, where, contrary to all expectations, the Indian Princes accepted federation. The optimism resulting from this agreement was, to a considerable degree, dissipated, however, by the refusal of Gandhi's party to participate in the conference unless India were granted full and immediate Dominion status. Refusal of these terms resulted in an outburst of political activity which made it necessary for Irwin to find jails capable of holding sixty thousand Indian agitators at one time. …
From 1939 on, constitutional progress in India was blocked by a double stalemate: (1) the refusal of the Congress Party to cooperate in government unless the British abandoned India completely, something which could not be done while the Japanese were invading Burma; and (2) the growing refusal of the Moslem League to cooperate with the Congress Party on any basis except partition of India and complete autonomy for the areas with Moslem majorities. The Milner Group, and the British government generally, by 1940 had given up all hope of any successful settlement except complete self-government for India, but it could not give up to untried hands complete control of defense policy during the war. At the same time, the Milner Group generally supported Moslem demands because of its usual emphasis on minority rights.
During this period the Milner Group remained predominant in Indian affairs, although the Viceroy (Lord Linlithgow) was not a member of the Group. The Secretary of State for India, however, was Leopold Amery for the whole period 1940-1945. A number of efforts were made to reach agreement with the Congress Party, but the completely unrealistic attitude of the party's leaders, especially Gandhi, made this impossible. In 1941, H. V. Hodson, by that time one of the most important members of the Milner Group, was made Reforms Commissioner for India. The following year the most important effort to break the Indian stalemate was made. This was the Cripps Mission, whose chief adviser was Sir Reginald Coupland, another member of the inner circle of the Milner Group. As a result of the failure of this mission and of the refusal of the Indians to believe in the sincerity of the British (a skepticism that was completely without basis), the situation dragged on until after the War. The election of 1945, which drove the Conservative Party from office, also removed the Milner Group from its positions of influence. The subsequent events, including complete freedom for India and the division of the country into two Dominions within the British Commonwealth, were controlled by new hands, but the previous actions of the Milner Group had so committed the situation that these new hands had no possibility (nor, indeed, desire) to turn the Indian problem into new paths. There can be little doubt that with the Milner Group still in control the events of 1945-1948 in respect to India would have differed only in details.
The history of British relations with India in the twentieth century was disastrous. In this history the Milner Group played a major role. To be sure, the materials with which they had to work were intractable and they had inconvenient obstacles at home (like the diehards within the Conservative Party), but these problems were made worse by the misconceptions about India and about human beings held by the Milner Group. The bases on which they built their policy were fine — indeed, too fine. These bases were idealistic, almost Utopian, to a degree which made it impossible for them to grow and function and made it highly likely that forces of ignorance and barbarism would be released, with results exactly contrary to the desires of the Milner Group. On the basis of love of liberty, human rights, minority guarantees, and self- responsibility, the Milner Group took actions that broke down the lines of external authority in Indian society faster than any lines of internal self-discipline were being created. It is said that the road to perdition is paved with good intentions. The road to the Indian tragedy of 1947-1948 was also paved with good intentions, and those paving blocks were manufactured and laid down by the Milner Group. The same good intentions contributed largely to the dissolution of the British Empire, the race wars of South Africa, and the unleashing of the horrors of 1939-1945 on the world.
To be sure, in India as elsewhere, the Milner Group ran into bad luck for which they were not responsible. The chief case of this in India was the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, which was probably the chief reason for Gandhi's refusal to cooperate in carrying out the constitutional reforms of that same year. But the Milner Group's policies were self-inconsistent and were unrealistic. For example, they continually insisted that the parliamentary system was not fitted to Indian conditions, yet they made no real effort to find a more adaptive political system, and every time they gave India a further dose of self-government, it was always another dose of the parliamentary system. But, clinging to their beliefs, they loaded down this system with special devices which hampered it from functioning as a parliamentary system should. The irony of this whole procedure rests in the fact that the minority of agitators in India who wanted self-government wanted it on the parliamentary pattern and regarded every special device and every statement from Britain that it was not adapted to Indian conditions as an indication of the insincerity in the British desire to grant self-government to India.
A second error arises from the Milner Group's lack of enthusiasm for democracy. Democracy, as a form of government, involves two parts: (1) majority rule and (2) minority rights. Because of the Group's lack of faith in democracy, they held no brief for the first of these but devoted all their efforts toward achieving the second. The result was to make the minority uncompromising, at the same time that they diminished the majority's faith in their own sincerity. In India the result was to make the Moslem League almost completely obstructionist and make the Congress Party almost completely suspicious. The whole policy encouraged extremists and discouraged moderates. This appears at its worst in the systems of communal representation and communal electorates established in India by Britain. The Milner Group knew these were bad, but felt that they were a practical necessity in order to preserve minority rights. In this they were not only wrong, as proved by history, but were sacrificing principle to expediency in a way that can never be permitted by a group whose actions claim to be so largely dictated by principle. To do this weakens the faith of others in the group's principles.
-- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden, by Carroll Quigley
Emboldened perhaps by this initial venture into print, the couple moved on to a much more ambitious project: India Analysed. 'At that time the Round Table Conference was on and I felt that something on India must be projected,' Bedi recalled; 'by that time I had met Freda my future wife and we were collaborating intellectually. It was a joy working with her and we planned together.'  They approached Victor Gollancz, London's leading left-wing publisher, who agreed to a series of volumes about India. Freda and Bedi were the joint editors and enlisted renowned academics and experts in Britain and India to provide rigorous articles about India's place in international institutions, its economy, trade and fiscal situation. Four volumes were planned, each containing five essays -- though the final volume on constitutional issues never appeared.
Gollancz had an impressive list, and at this time was publishing books of such renown as J.B. Priestley's English journey and Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth as well as a wide range of current affairs tides. In all, they published upwards of a hundred books a year. India did not greatly feature, so India Analysed filled a gap. The editors dedicated all three volumes to 'the Oxford University Gandhi Group in whose discussions the need for this series was realised'. The goal, they explained, was to offer a picture of present-day India:
We have attempted to provide an interesting and detailed account of the Indian situation to-day, and the forces that have gone to make it up, but an account that is neither too technical nor lacking in general interest. It is intended first and foremost for the man with an intelligent interest in Indian affairs who is not satisfied with the scrappy and often biased accounts he finds in the newspapers; and secondly for the student who will only find such material by spending time he can ill afford among a pile of Indian journals. 
They certainly aimed high in the contributors they enlisted. Their friend and mentor Alfred Zimmern, Oxford's first professor of international relations, had pole position in the first volume, writing on 'India and the world situation'. His counterpart at the London School of Economics, C.A.W. Manning, examined 'India and the League of Nations'. Both were big names but not -- as they conceded -- specialists on India. Only one of the five contributors was himself Indian. This seems to be what annoyed a reviewer on a Lahore daily paper, who found the essays 'ponderous', 'cursory' and 'superficial', and 'done from an angle of vision with which majority of Indians will not see eye to eye'. 
Looking to the contributors to the second volume, predominantly academics who were themselves Indian, this Lahore-based critic was confident that they would provide 'a truer picture of India and her ills, which had been mostly manufactured for us by an unsympathetic oligarchy for the betterment of their own people at the expense of India and Indians'. These writers indeed displayed greater expertise, and broadly shared the nationalist perspective of the reviewer. While the tone of the volumes was progressive, this was by the standards of the October Club very mild fare. Some of the contributors were on the left, but there was no hint of communism or revolution in India Analysed. That's unlikely to have been at the publisher's behest, as Gollancz published several Marxist and communist writers, but the choice of the editors. Their aim with these volumes was more to inform than to agitate; to create an awareness of India's current difficulties, particularly economic and fiscal, which in turn would help shape discussion about the country's future.
The tone of India Analysed became more partisan over time, as any hopes vested in the Round Table conferences faded. Brij Narain, writing about currency in the third volume, asserted that the history of the rupee's exchange rate provided 'a good illustration of the conflict between British and Indian interests which has been the chief feature of our economic life in recent years. ... We [i.e. India] believe that we are the best judges of what is good for US.'  Another professor of economics, K.T. Shah, railed against the iniquity of imposing a financial burden on India to meet the costs of British wars and military endeavours. 'Mr Gandhi proclaimed, at the Round Table Conference, that India would pay with the last drop of her blood whatever was found justly to be due from her. But she cannot be asked, in fairness, to shoulder burdens which are not hers in reality, which were imposed upon her originally as a piece of injustice and inequity, and which afford no proportionate benefit to the people of India.'  This was a more assertive style of Indian nationalism assembling its intellectual armoury.
A multi-author project, especially with such eminent academics across two continents, would have been daunting and enormously time consuming: the process of commissioning, chasing, editing and arranging the chapters would have been anything but straightforward and Gollancz would have expected disciplined observance of the publication timetable. Freda and Bedi received no advance from the publishers, but as they were editors rather than the authors that was perhaps not surprising. For them, this was not about making money but about serving a cause. Even more, it was the joy and camaraderie of a shared project. This was, in the most literal of meanings, a labour of love. They must have used every sinew of their contacts, and of the address books of their academic friends, to attract such a rollcall of contributors, and it would also have been a huge distraction from their academic studies.
The proofs of the first volume of India Analysed, devoted to the country's international standing, reached the editors at the end of May 1933, as Freda and Bedi were preparing for their finals exams -- and for their wedding. Nevertheless, the book was ready to go to press just ten days later, and it was published in July -- at about the time that the couple were heading off on honeymoon.  The subsequent two volumes followed promptly. In the second volume, devoted to economic facts, Freda used her married name. The preface was written from Berlin on 5th October 1933 -- the same day as Freda's letter to her mother-in-law. The couple put the finishing touches to the third volume, about 'economic issues', in April 1934 -- by which time Freda was eight months pregnant. It appeared at about the time the Bedis and their newborn son were on their way to India. It is a tribute to their determination and resilience that they saw through these three volumes amid the turbulence of exams, moving countries, getting married and having a baby.
The series didn't attract much attention in Britain, which may have been disappointing to the editors but given the dry, academic tone of India Analysed was perhaps not surprising. The stridently nationalist temper, particularly of the third and final volume, did not however go unnoticed. It attracted a long and-hostile review in the Times of India, which argued that the essays were out of date, incomplete, biased and unduly pessimistic.  India Analysed had adopted an unspoken but very evident nationalist perspective, carefully argued though at times with a polemical edge. This was clearly not to the liking of those happy to place confidence in the benevolence of Imperial rule.
Seeing through all three volumes of India Analysed would have been a drain on the time of both Freda and Bedi, but it also must have given them status within the Indian student community in Berlin. Not many students in pursuit of a doctorate had such an impressive list of publications to their name. Berlin was, in the late twenties and early thirties, one of the commanding European capitals, bursting with intellectual energy. Some Indian students preferred it to London, not least because they wanted to escape the embrace of an Empire to which they were opposed. There was also an Indian emigre community in the German capital, politically engaged in ending Imperialism and sometimes working alongside Germany's powerful Communist Party. The rise of Hitler's national socialists changed all this -- but not overnight.
Bedi's research scholarship at the old-established Friedrich Wilhelm Universitat (now the Humboldt University) brought him a modest stipend of 110 Reichsmark a month, supplemented by financial support from his older brother. His research topic was about the development of classes and castes in India under the supervision of one of Europe's most renowned economists and sociologists of the time, Werner Sombart.  The university was popular among Indians studying in Europe. Zakir Husain, later independent India's first Muslim president, was awarded a doctorate there in the 1920s. Ram Manohar Lohia, who went on to become a commanding figure in Indian socialism, was a doctoral student at the university until early 1933.23 There was in the early 1930s an active network of left-wing and nationalist Indians in Berlin -- and of informers passing word of who was doing and saying what back to the British authorities. The British embassy in Berlin kept a close eye on the activities of Indian students and the Indian police were keen that nationalist students should not be forced out of the city, as that would disrupt the flow of intelligence. The League Against Imperialism, established in 1927 on the initiative of communists and with the active support of Nehru and the Indian National Congress, was based in Berlin until it was raided at the end of 1931. This was an important initiative aimed at creating links between nationalist movements in countries such as India, China and South Africa, western socialists who were campaigning for 'colonial freedom' and the international communist movement, and while it eventually dissolved amid political and factional recrimination, it was the sort of initiative which put the British authorities on edge.
By the time Freda and Bedi headed to Berlin there were clear indications of the worsening political atmosphere. There was a book burning at the university in May 1933, a portent of political and academic intolerance. Even more alarming, a few weeks earlier A.C.N. Nambiar was arrested, and also roughed-by by members of the Hitler Youth. He was a journalist and long-term resident of Germany who had been the administrator of the Indian Information Bureau, the rallying point for the Indian left in Berlin. The British ambassador felt obliged to protest about the ill-treatment of this British national, albeit one who was working against British rule in India. 
The prospect of a child and the changing political climate in Berlin discouraged Bedi from any sort of political activism which might attract the attention of the authorities. But his social circle certainly included Indian nationalists living in or passing through Berlin. Both he and Freda got to know Subhas Chandra Bose
, the key figure on the radical wing of the Indian National Congress, and when in India they both published an article by him and publicly defended him from accusations of fascism. 
1941–1943: Nazi Germany
Bose greeting Heinrich Himmler (right), the Nazi Minister of Interior, head of the SS, and the Gestapo, 1942.
Subhas Bose meeting Adolf Hitler
Bose's arrest and subsequent release set the scene for his escape to Germany, via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. A few days before his escape, he sought solitude and, on this pretext, avoided meeting British guards and grew a beard. Late night 16 January 1941, the night of his escape, he dressed as a Pathan (brown long coat, a black fez-type coat and broad pyjamas) to avoid being identified. Bose escaped from under British surveillance from his Elgin Road house in Calcutta about 01:25AM on 17 January 1941, accompanied by his nephew Sisir Kumar Bose in a German-made Wanderer W24 Sedan car, which would take him to Gomoh Railway Station in then state of Bihar, India. The car (Registration No. BLA 7169) was bought by Subhash Chandra Bose's elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose in 1937. The car is now on display at his Elgin Road home in Calcutta, India.
He journeyed to Peshawar with the help of the Abwehr, where he was met by Akbar Shah, Mohammed Shah and Bhagat Ram Talwar.
Bose was taken to the home of Abad Khan, a trusted friend of Akbar Shah's. On 26 January 1941, Bose began his journey to reach Russia through British India's North West frontier with Afghanistan. For this reason, he enlisted the help of Mian Akbar Shah, then a Forward Bloc leader in the North-West Frontier Province. Shah had been out of India en route to the Soviet Union, and suggested a novel disguise for Bose to assume. Since Bose could not speak one word of Pashto, it would make him an easy target of Pashto speakers working for the British. For this reason, Shah suggested that Bose act deaf and dumb, and let his beard grow to mimic those of the tribesmen. Bose's guide Bhagat Ram Talwar, unknown to him, was a Soviet agent.
Supporters of the Aga Khan III helped him across the border into Afghanistan where he was met by an Abwehr unit posing as a party of road construction engineers from the Organization Todt who then aided his passage across Afghanistan via Kabul to the border with Soviet Russia. After assuming the guise of a Pashtun insurance agent ("Ziaudddin") to reach Afghanistan, Bose changed his guise and travelled to Moscow on the Italian passport of an Italian nobleman "Count Orlando Mazzotta". From Moscow, he reached Rome, and from there he travelled to Germany. Once in Russia the NKVD transported Bose to Moscow where he hoped that Russia's traditional enmity to British rule in India would result in support for his plans for a popular rising in India. However, Bose found the Soviets' response disappointing and was rapidly passed over to the German Ambassador in Moscow, Count von der Schulenburg. He had Bose flown on to Berlin in a special courier aircraft at the beginning of April where he was to receive a more favourable hearing from Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Foreign Ministry officials at the Wilhelmstrasse.
In Germany, he was attached to the Special Bureau for India under Adam von Trott zu Solz which was responsible for broadcasting on the German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. He founded the Free India Center in Berlin, and created the Indian Legion (consisting of some 4500 soldiers) out of Indian prisoners of war who had previously fought for the British in North Africa prior to their capture by Axis forces. The Indian Legion was attached to the Wehrmacht, and later transferred to the Waffen SS. Its members swore the following allegiance to Hitler and Bose: "I swear by God this holy oath that I will obey the leader of the German race and state, Adolf Hitler, as the commander of the German armed forces in the fight for India, whose leader is Subhas Chandra Bose". This oath clearly abrogates control of the Indian legion to the German armed forces whilst stating Bose's overall leadership of India. He was also, however, prepared to envisage an invasion of India via the USSR by Nazi troops, spearheaded by the Azad Hind Legion; many have questioned his judgment here, as it seems unlikely that the Germans could have been easily persuaded to leave after such an invasion, which might also have resulted in an Axis victory in the War.
-- Subhas Chandra Bose, by Wikipedia
For Indian leftists, impatient with what they saw as the quietism of Gandhi and his allies within the Congress and demanding a more militant form of nationalism and anti-Imperialism, the rise of a race-based populist nationalism caught the eye. When in Lahore, B.P.L. Bedi wrote about the Hitler Youth in a style more descriptive than denunciatory, explaining why Hitler put such importance in organising young Germans and how he had managed to attract four million youngsters into his youth wing.  At the time of Bedi's stay in Berlin, his supervisor Werner Sombart -- who had once spoken of himself as a convinced Marxist -- published Deutscher Sozialismus ('German Socialism', though the English translation was published as A New Social Philosophy). This clearly looked to the Nazi party to achieve a new style of socialism which placed 'the welfare of the whole above the welfare of the individual'. Sombart asserted that "'a new spirit" is beginning to rule mankind'. There could be 'no universally valid social order but only one that is suited to a particular nation' -- and German socialism required that 'the individual as a citizen will have no rights but only duties.' 
During the Weimar Republic, Sombart moved toward nationalism, and his relation to Nazism is still debated today.
In 1934 he published Deutscher Sozialismus where he claimed a "new spirit" was beginning to "rule mankind". The age of capitalism and proletarian socialism was over, with "German socialism" (National-Socialism) taking over. This German socialism puts the "welfare of the whole above the welfare of the individual". German socialism must effect a "total ordering of life" with a "planned economy in accordance with state regulations". The new legal system will confer on individuals "no rights but only duties" and that "the state should never evaluate individual persons as such, but only the group which represents these persons". German socialism is accompanied by the Volksgeist (national spirit) which is not racial in the biological sense but metaphysical: "the German spirit in a Negro is quite as much within the realm of possibility as the Negro spirit in a German". The antithesis of the German spirit is the Jewish spirit, which is not a matter of being born Jewish or believing in Judaism but is a capitalistic spirit. The English people possess the Jewish spirit and the "chief task" of the German people and National Socialism is to destroy the Jewish spirit.
-- Werner Sombart, by Wikipedia
Freda seems to have imbibed something of this indulgence of totalitarianism. In a review of books about European fascism, she expressed understanding -- sympathy almost -- for the rise of National Socialism. 'Germany is making a determined fight for equality and national self-respect,' she declared. 'Her desire for equal arms is only an expression of it -- she has no desire to make war.' And citing her 'year of observation in Nazi Germany', she argued that one of the authors had misunderstood his topic:
He has judged Germany by the standards of democratic countries. He has seen very clearly the German love of organization, of uniform and of bands. But he has not rightly understood that the passion for discipline in Germany is a question of internal order, something ingrained in the cleanly, thorough German character -- and not an expression of an agressive [sic] spirit that is a danger to European peace. 
It was, alas, Freda who had failed to understand the character of German fascism.
As a chief figure in Salisbury's efforts to bolster up the Ottoman Empire against Russia, D'Abernon had always been anti-Russian. In this respect, his background was like Curzon's. As a result of the Warsaw mission, D'Abernon's anti-Russian feeling was modified to an anti-Bolshevik one of much greater intensity. To him the obvious solution seemed to be to build up Germany as a military bulwark against the Soviet Union. He said as much in a letter of 11 August 1920 to Sir Maurice Hankey. This letter, printed by D'Abernon in his book on the Battle of Warsaw (The Eighteenth Decisive Battle of the World, published 1931), suggests that "a good bargain might be made with the German military leaders in cooperating against the Soviet." Shortly afterwards, D'Abernon was made British Ambassador at Berlin. At the time, it was widely rumored and never denied that he had been appointed primarily to obtain some settlement of the reparations problem, it being felt that his wide experience in international public finance would qualify him for this work. This may have been so, but his prejudices likewise qualified him for only one solution to the problem, the one desired by the Germans. (5)
In reaching this solution, D'Abernon acted as the intermediary among Stresemann, the German Chancellor; Curzon, the Foreign Secretary; and, apparently, Kindersley, Brand's associate at Lazard Brothers. According to Harold Nicolson in his book Curzon The Last Phase (1934), "The initial credit for what proved the ultimate solution belongs, in all probability, to Lord D'Abernon — one of the most acute and broad-minded diplomatists which this country has ever possessed." In the events leading up to Curzon's famous note to France of 11 August 1923, the note which contended that the Ruhr occupation could not be justified under the Treaty of Versailles, D'Abernon played an important role both in London and in Berlin. In his Diary of an Ambassador, DAbernon merely listed the notes between Curzon and France and added: "Throughout this controversy Lord D'Abernon had been consulted."
During his term as Ambassador in Berlin, DAbernon's policy was identical with that of the Milner Group, except for the shading that he was more anti-Soviet and less anti-French and was more impetuous in his desire to tear up the Treaty of Versailles in favor of Germany. This last distinction rested on the fact that D'Abernon was ready to appease Germany regardless of whether it were democratic or not; indeed, he did not regard democracy as either necessary or good for Germany. The Milner Group, until 1929, was still in favor of a democratic Germany, because they realized better than D'Abernon the danger to civilization from an undemocratic Germany. It took the world depression and its resulting social unrest to bring the Milner Group around to the view which D'Abernon held as early as 1920, that appeasement to an undemocratic Germany could be used as a weapon against "social disorder."
Brigadier General J. H. Morgan, whom we have already quoted, makes perfectly clear that D'Abernon was one of the chief obstacles in the path of the Inter-allied Commission's efforts to force Germany to disarm. In 1920, when von Seeckt, Commander of the German Army, sought modifications of the disarmament rules which would have permitted large-scale evasion of their provisions, General Morgan found it impossible to get his dissenting reports accepted in London. He wrote in Assize of Arms: "At the eleventh hour I managed to get my reports on the implications of von Seeckt's plan brought to the direct notice of Mr. Lloyd George through the agency of my friend Philip Kerr who, after reading these reports, advised the Prime Minister to reject von Seeckt's proposals. Rejected they were at the Conference of Spa in July 1920, as we shall see, but von Seeckt refused to accept defeat and fell back on a second move." When, in 1921, General Morgan became "gravely disturbed" at the evasions of German disarmament, he wrote a memorandum on the subject. It was suppressed by Lord D'Abernon. Morgan added in his book: "I was not altogether surprised. Lord D'Abernon was the apostle of appeasement." In January 1923, this "apostle of appeasement" forced the British delegation on the Disarmament Commission to stop all inspection operations in Germany. They were never resumed, although the Commission remained in Germany for four more years, and the French could do nothing without the British members. (6) ''
-- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden, by Carroll Quigley
In the same review, she wrote approvingly of Oswald Mosley and British fascism
. 'It is useless to deny that Fascism will have a hold in England,' she declared. 'Leaving aside the personality of Mosley -- there may be differences of opinion on that -- the fact remains that a vital nationalistic policy, put forward by a group of men determined on the idea of service, has never yet failed to stir a nation to action and to progress.' She repeated this chilling endorsement of fascism in the conclusion of the review:
Fascism in its national aspect can be sure of an ultimate success, but English Fascism must beware against inheriting an imperialist tradition, with all its evils and abuses. Mosley and his men may see before them a Greater Britain, but there are others equally sincere who see before them a Greater India. And the dynamic national consciousness of India will attain its ultimate victory just as surely and thoroughly as Italy has done
, and Russia and Germany. English Fascism will only succeed in so far as it limits itself to the borders of Great Britain.
Freda spoke later of the 'fascist horror', but at this stage she appeared to acquiesce in the rise of fascist movements. It was an extraordinary and unsettling argument she advanced: for its endorsement of a militaristic style of nationalism; for its insistence that this did not bring a heightened risk of war; and for the supposition that British fascism could be decoupled from Empire to the extent of tolerating the national ambitions of the colonies. While fascism was not yet tainted by the visceral anti-semitism that produced the Holocaust, by the time Freda's book review was published some of her fellow members of the October Club had been involved in pitched battles with Mosleyites at Olympia and elsewhere. Fascism had been unmasked, and the brutality that underlay it was already apparent. Freda's comments emphasise that her burning political commitment was to Indian nationalism and that her broader political outlook at this time could best be described as confused. This was a short book review not a well-developed political treatise, but it suggests an alarmingly naive and uncritical approach to the rise of the most monstrous of twentieth-century totalitarianisms.
Her most pressing task, however, was preparing for the baby -- and doing so in a new home, in a foreign country, with no family beyond her husband at hand. She made two good German friends who helped in making baby clothes and gave sound advice. One of them, Nora Morrell, recommended a nursing home -- Hans Dahlem, a well-regarded Catholic institution with its own way of doing things. 'It was an extremely good nursing home,' Freda later recalled, 'but they had this theory that one shouldn't give too much anaesthetic to young mothers. But they didn't on the other hand teach one how to have painless childbirth and give one the sort of exercises which are regularly taught these days.' 
The baby was born on May 13th 1934: a boy, delivered after a fairly uneventful four hours in labour. 'He was a healthy child, weighed about eight pounds, and had the most astoundingly beautiful eyelashes and a little cap of dark hair and rosy cheeks.' Freda's mother came over to Berlin for the birth-the earliest photo of the baby is at three days old, in his grandmother's arms. Mother and baby came home nine days after the birth; his cradle was Indian, swathed in cotton and blue bows. This little boy was born in the German capital to an English mother, but he was from the moment of his birth Indian. That was reflected in his name, Ranga Trilochan Bedi. Trilochan was the name of Bedi's older brother. The name Ranga, his mother recalled, was after a liberal politician who had been the editor of an Indian daily paper rooted in moderate nationalism. When news of their engagement had become public the previous year, at a time when many Indian public figures were in London in the aftermath of the Round Table conferences, it had prompted discussion about inter-racial marriages among students:
At that time we were told by friends that Rangaswami Iyengar, who was the editor of the Hindu, Madras, had staunchly supported us and had said -- 'Why shouldn't our boys marry the best English girls, why must they always marry girls who are not in the university? I think they should get married. Why not!' And hearing of that, when we went up to London next time we called on him and thanked him and we became friends. 
Rangaswami Iyengar had died by the time the baby was born, and the naming of the child was in part 'because it was the name of this great statesman who had helped us so much.'
Ranga's birth merited mention in the Tribune, the more nationalist minded of Lahore's English language daily papers. Its anonymous correspondent in the German capital described the Bedis as 'two very conspicuous figures in the Indian community of Berlin', destined soon to make the journey to Lahore, and gave a flattering, almost swooning, pen portrait of the couple:
Mr Bedi is a strong, impressive personality of fine manly presence. His scholarly attainments are no mere abstractions, no mental achievements that go straight to sleep after their birth in the brain of an unoriginal mind. They are blooming realities of sterling worth that struggle again and again into fruitage in the microcosm of his mind under the percussion of the macrocosm around him. In addition to his manifold activities in the University and the seminaries attached to it, Mr Bedi is doing excellent constructive work in the Executive of the Indian Students' Association. Mrs Bedi has been very busy learning the Hindi language at the University since her arrival in Berlin. She reads Premchand's short stories fluently and corresponds in Hindi with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law in India. 
Mother and baby 'are progressing well', the letter added more prosaically. It was an embarrassingly verbose commendation of the Bedis, but clearly well informed.
Freda and Bedi lovingly assembled two baby books for their firstborn, replete with anecdotes, photographs and letters and telegrams of congratulation from India and England. More than eight decades later, Ranga Bedi has them still. Among the letters was one from Lucie Zimmern in Oxford, who had done so much to encourage the couple to have faith in their love. 'My dear children,' she wrote, 'How happy I am for you + how much we are looking forward to meeting this little baby who carries with him such a rich + extensive heirloom. May he witness a better use made by men of their minds + spirits + may you both be inspired to guide him.' The letter was signed 'grand maman', grandmother -- the Zimmerns took an almost proprietorial interest in the romance they had helped to nurture.
The Bedi family lived a quiet life in one of the more verdant Berlin suburbs. On their first wedding anniversary, they took the baby, then five-weeks old, on his first outing-to the zoo. Another outing, with Freda's mother and stepfather, was to Sanssouci, Frederick the Great's splendid summer palace at Potsdam just outside Berlin. It must have seemed at times that the wider political situation, and above all the racial and political intolerance of Hitler's administration and the free rein given to his supporters, was receding into the distance. But inevitably, the darkening clouds intruded into their lives.
President Hindenburg, the only real constraint on Hitler's assumption of absolute power, died on August 2nd 1934. The cabinet had decreed that on his death the office of president would be merged with that of chancellor, which was already held by Hitler. He was duly declared to be Germany's fuhrer. The Bedis had been contemplating heading to India that autumn, but Bedi had kept his options open by enrolling at the university for a further year. This additional step towards a Nazi dictatorship unsettled him:
I remember B.P.L. put down the paper and said: tomorrow we get on the train and go to Geneva, it's not safe any more. He was not taking part in any active politics but he was friendly with the Indian students of Berlin ... And he knew that Hitler's ways were such that he could swoop down on the Indian students-and precisely that did happen. He had a prophetic vision of it really.
So the next morning -- literally I was packing all day. You can imagine the state I was in -- packing and getting everything ready in one day, and B.P.L. going and getting the visa to Switzerland. But he put me on the train all right, and the next morning I was on the train and Nora on the platform to wave, say goodbye. 
In one of the baby books, there's a photograph taken on the station platform in Berlin. Freda and Ranga are in the carriage, just visible at the window, while Bedi is standing with Nora and some Indian friends, one of whom made the journey to Geneva with them. They had been forced to take refuge from fascism. It was not a happy way of saying goodbye to their first real home as a married couple and the city where their baby was born. But in Switzerland they were safe.
Through friends, the couple had the use of a flat in Geneva, which gave them some thinking time after the hurried departure from Germany.
After their hasty exit, they spent a few pleasant weeks staying in accommodations that had been arranged by their old Oxford professor, Alfred Zimmern [Professor Sir Alfred Eckhard Zimmern, whose name is associated with the founding of the League of Nations], who ran a school there
. In October 1934, they finally made the decision to go to India and make it their permanent home. They sailed on the SS Conte Verde from northern Italy to Bombay, a journey of three weeks.
-- -- The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi, by Vicki Mackenzie
Bedi had to abandon plans for a doctorate, and leaving Berlin also meant forsaking his scholarship stipend. They had always intended to make their home in India and they decided to sail east as soon as they could. After just a few weeks in Geneva, the young family travelled to the port of Trieste and embarked on the SS Conte Verde.
-- 3: Everything That Was Good in Us, Excerpt from The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead