|The Zamenhofs in Antwerp, 1911|
It actually says something that Zamenhof’s death in Warsaw hit the American papers so quickly. After all, Europe was at war. The front page of the April 16 New York Tribune (they fit the Zamenhof obituary on page 7) all about war: “President Calls Nation to War Duties,” “Treasury Asks for $1,807,250,000 in Special War Taxes,” and “Socialists’ Peace Plan Called German Ruse.”
The reports given in various newspapers (New York Tribune, Washington Times, Washington Evening Star, The Tacoma Times) overlap in their text, so the whole thing was probably taken from the wire services. This is the article as it appeared in the Tribune:
Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof
Author of Esperanto Dies in Warsaw at Fifty-eight
Amsterdam, April 16.—Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof, author of Esperanto, died yesterday at Warsaw, according to advices received here.
Dr. Zamenhof was born at Bielostok in 1859 and published his first book on the new language called Esperanto in 1887. Dr. Zamenhof chose the roots of Esperanto from existing languages, mainly European. There are 2,642 roots in his dictionary. The phonology of his language is said to be very simple. The grammar, like Volapuk, wich it succeeded as an international auxiliary languge is partially borrowed from existing languages.
The last ten years of Zamenhof’s life must have been difficult (even apart from health issues). He had seen the movement split with the Ido schism, a breakaway which saw more favor among prominent Esperantists than the rank and file, so Zamenhof saw old friends and allies break with him. He had seen the 1914 Universala Kongreso abruptly cancelled due to the beginning of World War I, and though the armistice would happen later in 1917, he wouldn’t be around to see it.
It was a low point for Esperanto.
The succeeding century saw mixed fortunes for Esperanto. French opposition to Esperanto in the 1920s was nothing to German persecution of Esperanto in the 1930s and 40s. Let’s be blunt: the French just blocked the use of Esperanto in diplomacy and education; they didn’t murder Zamenhof’s family. And yet despite attempts to stamp out Zamenhof’s dream, it persists after his death.
The 1915 UK was a hastily thrown-together affair, moved from the initial choice of Birmingham to San Francisco in the still-neutral United States. Only 163 people marked the tenth anniversary of the first UK. A century after that, in 2015, 2,698 Esperanto speakers participated in the 100th UK in Lille, France.
Things have changed recently.
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Ludovik Zamenhof died a century ago, but his dream lives on. A century after his death, people are learning and speaking the language that he published 130 years ago this year. Let us raise a toast to the memory of Ludovik Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto:
Zamenhof mortis, sed sia revo ankaŭ vivas!
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