Short account of the banning of Esperanto and the beginning of persecution of its speakers in Nazi Germany.
On May 17th, 1935, the German Minister for Science, Education and Public Education, Bernhard Rust, banned the teaching of Esperanto in German schools. The decree gave as its reason that the use of Esperanto would lead to “weakening of the essential values of national character”. Thus, the suppression of Esperanto, which had already begun in the Nazi regime in 1933, was officially confirmed.
The greater part of the Esperanto courses in the schools had already been stopped before the decree; when the Nazis took power, radio broadcast courses stopped immediately. School-based instruction was stopped in more than 100 schools in Germany from the 1920s onward, and the crippling of organized labor (which supported Esperanto) struck the Esperanto movement during the subsequent decades.
Banishment of Esperanto Associations
The suppression of workers’ associations took place between March and December 1933 – the possessions of the German Workers’ Esperanto Association (GLEA) were confiscated by the police, the Socialist Esperanto Association (SEA) decided to dissolve itself, the contents of the EKRELO Press were confiscated and the activities of SAT (Sennacia Asocio Tutmonda, or the World Non-Nationalist Association) were banned. Many of the activists from the workers’ Esperanto movement were imprisoned; some died.
The German Esperanto Association (GEA), after a June decree from Heinrich Himmler, director of the German police and of the Nazi “SS” organization, was dissolved until July 15th, 1936, in order to avoid disbanding by the state. Thus, the Nazis shut down organized labor working on the behalf of Esperanto.
After the war, on January 12, 1949, Esperanto groups in the Soviet occupied zone were again forbidden; the Central Labor Circle of the Friends of Esperanto (CLE) was established in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) only in 1965. Esperanto groups had reappeared in West Germany starting in 1946, after receiving permission from Western Alliance members.
The losses from Nazi suppression and the war were strongly visible in membership numbers, which regained less than half their pre-war count.