Origin of Esperanto

Service (opening words, reading, closing words) to an address by Jennifer Bishop, Director of Education Australian Esperanto Association, Melbourne Unitarian Church, June 13, 2010

Saluton. Bonan matenon, kaj bonvenon la Eklezion Unectarios Paca Memoro.

Opening Words

In our meeting there are no strong or weak nations, privileged or unfavoured ones, nobody is humiliated, nobody is harassed; we all support one another upon a neutral foundation, we all have the same rights, we all feel ourselves the members of the same nation, like the members of the same family, and for the first time in the history of human race, we -the members of different peoples- are one beside the other not as strangers, not like competitors, but like brothers who do not enforce their language, but who understand one another, trustfully, conceitedly, and we shake our hands with no hypocrisy like strangers, but sincerely, like people.

-- Lazar Lewis Zamenhof (1905)

Reading

The history of Esperanto has included not only harassment and disparagement, but also outright bans and persecutions. Esperanto has been viewed by various regimes as a "dangerous language" (which is the title of a very commendable work noted in the Bibliography): As early as 1895 the journal La Esperantisto was disallowed from entering tsarist Russia; in 1922 the teaching of Esperanto was banned from French schools; in 1935 the teaching of Esperanto (which had been an optional subject at "free schools") was prohibited in Germany; in 1936 Esperanto itself was banned in Germany and Portugal [Adolf Hitler: "As long as the Jew has not become the master of the other peoples, he must speak their languages whether he likes it or not, but as soon as they became his slaves, they would all have to learn a universal language (Esperanto, for instance!), so that by this additional means the Jews could more easily dominate them!"]; from the mid-30s onward, publications of SAT [World Langauge Association] along with anarchist publications could no longer enter the USSR. As Stalinist repression increased, the activities of the once strong Soviet Esperanto movement were subjected to ever greater limitations. [Stalin: "[Esperanto is] the language of spies."] In a swift move in 1937, many of the most active Esperantists were arrested and either shot or sent off to prison camps. Esperanto was from then on ostracised and strictly forbidden as a "product of bourgeois internationalism and cosmopolitanism"; starting in 1938, Esperanto was banned in all territories that had been occupied or annexed by Germany.

These prohibitions and persecutions greatly hampered and inhibited the Esperanto movement, and with it the propagation and development of the International Language.

(From Will Firth, in "Esperanto and the International Language Problem])

Closing Words

We are not so naïve as some think of us; we do not believe that a neutral base will turn men into angels, but we do know that evil people will always be evil; but we believe that communication and knowledge based upon a natural tool will prevent at least the great quantity of brutality and crimes which happen not because of ill will, but simply because of lack of knowledge and oppression.

Lazar Lewis Zamenhof (1905)