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1930 - Salt March

Salt March - an act of nonviolent civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi, giving impetus to the Indian independence movement

Britain’s Salt Act of 1882 prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in their diet. Indian citizens were forced to buy the vital mineral from their British rulers, who, in addition to exercising a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of salt, also charged a heavy salt tax. Although India’s poor suffered most under the tax, all Indians required salt.

On March 12, 1930, Gandhi set out from his religious retreat near Ahmedabad with several dozen followers on a trek of some 240 miles to the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. There, Gandhi and his supporters were to defy British policy by making salt from seawater. All along the way, Gandhi addressed large crowds, and with each passing day an increasing number of people joined the salt satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience


By the time they reached Dandi on April 5, Gandhi was at the head of a crowd of tens of thousands. He spoke and led prayers and early the next morning walked down to the sea to make salt. He had planned to work the salt flats on the beach, encrusted with crystallized sea salt at every high tide, but the police had forestalled him by crushing the salt deposits into the mud. Nevertheless, Gandhi reached down and picked up a small lump of natural salt out of the mud—and British law had been defied.


At Dandi, thousands more followed his lead, and in the coastal cities of Bombay (now called Mumbai) and Karachi, Indian nationalists led crowds of citizens in making salt.

Civil disobedience broke out all across India, soon involving millions of Indians, and British authorities arrested more than 60,000 people. Gandhi himself was arrested on May 5, but the satyagraha continued without him. On May 21, the poet Sarojini Naidu led 2,500 marchers on the Dharasana Salt Works, some 150 miles north of Bombay. Several hundred British-led Indian policemen met them and viciously beat the peaceful demonstrators. The incident prompted an international outcry against British policy in India.

Although the salt laws were just one manifestation of Britain’s repressive colonial rule, Gandhi’s decision to protest the tax was a stroke of political genius. The prohibition against the independent production or sale of salt, an essential mineral found in India’s earth and waters, was perfectly symbolic of control by a foreign power. The simple injustice of the salt laws  could be understood by anyone.


Gandhi eventually reached an agreement with India’s British viceroy in 1931 to end the protests in exchange for an end to the salt tax and the release of political prisoners. Colonial rule remained intact, but Britain was shaken. India was awakened to the dream of independence, helping fuel the years of struggle that finally led Britain to partition the country into India and Pakistan in 1947.


Further Reading


Thought Co - Gandhi's Salt March

Dandi Memorial - 1930 Salt March: Historical Background

1930 - German War Veterans

Destitute German veterans - soldiers of the Great War begging on the streets were a common sight in many German cities

Nearly three million German soldiers  suffered some sort of injury during the course of World War I. The injured, amputees, blind and disfigured were visible throughout Germany in the inter-war years.  Walter Ballhause captured their plight in some of his social documentary photographs.

Despite the emergence of a broad range of veterans’ associations in Germany, a significant number of ex-soldiers slipped through the cracks.  Savings and pensions had been wiped out during hyperinflation, and as the  effects of the Great Depression kicked in many were left in precarious positions.  Those who were wounded would typically struggle to find employment, and if they lacked a support network would have to rely on charities or resort to begging on the streets.

After the Nazis gained power in 1933, they envisaged a sweeping programme of aid for wounded veterans, giving them the honour they deserved for being "first citizens of the nation".  In addition to the pensions of the Weimar Republic, the Nationalsozialistische Kriegsopferversorgung (National Socialist War Victim's Care) promised that front veteran's would receive a special medal, reserved seating at public functions, preferential treatment in government offices, reduced-price tickets for trains and events, and preferential hiring (including quotas) in government jobs. 

This proposal, like most Nazi grand plans, was cut back (a service medal did happen), and by the time it became law in 1934, the biggest thing left was the Frontzulage, a supplementary pension for everyone who had been wounded at the front. It wasn't much, and not that many people qualified for it, but the government made a big deal out of it. Hidden in the preface of the law was a statement to the effect that although the government recognized that veterans deserved more, the priority for an economic recovery meant more benefits had to wait.


Further Reading

International Encyclopedia of First World War - Veterans' Associations

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