Lazarus Zamenhof, the dream of a language community


 André J. Fabre                                  October 2012

 Lazarus Zamenhof , whose real name was Ludwik Lejzer Samenhof was s physician of Poland dreaming of an international community of language.


  Louis Lazarus Zamenhof wad born in  Białystok, on north-eastern Poland, a city gathering together several populations : Russians, Poles and Germans in a wide variety of religions, nationalities and languages.

This disparate community was constantly torn by fights between communities. All along childhood Lazare observed many  such conflicts and wondered how would it be possible to bring some harmony between ethnic groups so prone to fight each others

In Lazarus  family, every one used to switch from a language to another : theey spoke Yiddish but also Russian, Polish, German and  Hebrew but Lazarus had also been taucht English, French, Italian and Latin. He even knew some basics of Aramaic language and, that would have delighted G dear to General de Gaulle, could speak…Volapük [2], an exxperimental language developed by a German priest, Johann Martin Schleyer

Gradually, the idea came clearly to Lazarus, there was an urgent need for  a "bridge language" base of all friendly relations between nations.

A first draft, presented in college, got only tepid welcome but Lazarus has now another project in mind: becoming physician.


  Like many other Polish students, Lazarus wanted to go to Moscow to pursue his medical studies. When he was there,  in contact with students from all parts of the wide Russian Empire, he got the idea of what he called "a Lingwe Uniwersala"

In fact his projects were immense as he dreamt of a far away colony which could host the Jewish people in a single nation but Lazarus kept faithful to his projects of a language uniting  all mankind in union.


 After a short while settlement in Lithuania, Lazarus came back to Poland to practice ophthalmology. Despite his harassing professional burden, and also, despite the St. Petersburg censors, Lazarus could publish in 1887 a "Manual of International Language' written in Russian under the pseudonym of "Doktoro Esperanto." This name would remain  attached to the "Zamenhof language".


 From 1888, Zamenhof worked with assiduity to get his ideas widely accepted but reactions were most diverse and at times openly hostile. However after a while encouraging messages flocked from all Europe and Leo Tolstoy as Max Müller, the most prominent linguists of the time expressed their support..

Despite all barriers, Zamenhof's "international language" could finally cross the boundaries of the Russian Empire.

"Esperantists" associations  were  created everywhere, around the world : their number was 44 in 1902, 308 in 1905, when the First Esperanto Universal Congress was held in France, atBoulogne-sur-Mer.

At the meeting, Zamenhof announced the creation of a universal instance fot Languages , the so-called " Akademio Esperanto". After that, "esperanto "meetings were held in all countries : Geneva in 1906, Cambridge, Dresden, Barcelona, Washington, Antwerp, Krakow and Bern.


  In 1914 Lazarus was preparing a solemn Esperanto Congress to be held in Paris ,  4,000 delegates would gather together, coming from 50 countries, but on August 3, just before the opening of Congress, the Great World War bursts. The conference crashed and Zamenhof died three years later in despair...

Adolf Hitler, in 1925, in Mein Kampf, had asserted to Germans thate Esperanto was part of a Jewish conspiracy to enslave Aryan races . Whenthe Nazis arrives in Poland, the three children of Louis Lazarus were immediately arrested by the Gestapo. Adam died in a camp in January 1940 and two sisters in the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942.

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Date de dernière mise à jour : 30/07/2013

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