Ludwig L. Zamenhof — the inventor of the “universal” language known as Esperanto — was born on this day 150 years ago.
Esperanto “features the use of words and wordroots common in European languages, but with a regular grammar and phonetic spellings.” But there’s a dark side to the story that not many people know. From our profile:
Decades after Zamenhof’s death, Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union deemed Esperanto a dangerous part of some ill-defined Zionist conspiracy. During World War II Zamenhof’s grown children, Adam, Zofia and Lidja, were imprisoned and executed by Nazi Germany.
More on that from the 1992 book Mind and Society Fads, courtesy of Google Books:
What a world.
One other sidelight: the name of his Polish hometown, Bialystok, is also the name of the Zero Mostel/Nathan Lane character — Max Bialystock — in The Producers. Here’s a fascinatin’ little exploration of that angle.
Well: Happy 150th birthday to you, Mr. Zamenhof, wherever you are!