After the Great War
An Appeal to Diplomatists

Translation by A.E.W.

(Other papers please copy.)

A terrible war has now involved almost all Europe. When the end is reached of the wholesale mutual slaughter which is so great a disgrace to the civilized world, the diplomatists will assemble and will endeavor to re-establish relations between the peoples. To you, on whom this task will fall, I now make my appeal.

When you meet together after the most sanguinary war in the records of history, you will have before you an exceptionally great and important task. It will depend on you whether the world is to have henceforth a settled piece for a very long time, and perhaps for ever, or whether we are to have only a temporary lull, soon to be broken again by various explosions of interracial strife, or even fresh wars. Examine, then, your task betimes, and with serious attention, for now that there have been sacrificed for your labour many hundreds of thousands of human lives and the hardly-earned livelihoods of millions, an enormous moral responsibility will rest upon you. See to it, then, that your labour be not aimless and fruitless; see to it that after the end of your labours mankind will be able to say: “Not in vain have we made these immense and terrific sacrifices.”

Will you begin simply to remake and patch up the map of Europe? Will you simply decide that the territory A must belong to the nation X and territory B to the nation Y? True, such work you will have to do, but it must be only an insignificant portion of your work; take care that the readjustment of the map does not become the whole substance of your work, for then your labours would remain valueless, and the huge blood sacrifices offered up by mankind would remain of no avail.

However much you desire to satisfy the peoples, however just you may endeavor to be towards various races, you will achieve nothing by readjustment of the map, for every apparent act of justices towards one race will be at the same time an injustice to another race. The present times are not like the ancient times: on every disputable portion of the earth there have laboured and shed their blood not one race only, but other races; and if you decide that this or that portion of land must belong to this or that race, you will not only not do a just act, but you also will not remove on that land the cause for future strife. The “freedom” which you will grant to this or that region will be a mere fallacy, for it will signify only that to this or that race you will give the right in that territory to dominate people of other races, who were also born there and have laboured and suffered there, and who have the same natural rights to their fatherland as every child has with regard to its mother. True, that race to which you grant privilege will enthusiastically cry, “Long live the diplomatists!” and if that race has the advantage of numbers in the region in question, it will intimidate the others into silence, and all the newspapers in the world will say that the whole population of the territory A is well pleased… But this will be nothing but an out-and-out falsehood, which the world will not detect simply because the lamentations of the oppressed, terrorised into silence, of people who have become aliens in their own land, do not reach the ears of the world.

In handing over any territory to the people of this or that race, you will always to an injustice to other people who have the same natural rights in respect of that territory. The only really just decision which you can make is: to declare emphatically as an official, deliberately adopted and fully guaranteed decision of all the European nations, the following fundamentally natural, but hitherto unhappily ignored, principle:—

That every country morally and materially belongs to all its sons in perfect equality of right.

That is, that in his private life every citizen of every state has full right to speak whatever language or dialect he chooses to speak, and to hold whatever religion he wishes to hold; that if in the public institutions one sole state or local language is used, that is a concession of the minority to the majority, merely for the same of convenience, and not as a humiliating tribute on the part of inferior races to a dominant race. Since the race-names which many kingdoms and provinces still bear are a chief reason why the inhabitants reputed to be of one origin consider themselves as the masters of the other inhabitants with another reputed origin, therefore every state and every province must bear the name, not of some race, but one merely neutral and geographical.

It would be best if, instead of various large and small European states, we should some day have proportionally and geographically arranged “United States of Europe.” But if it is as yet too early to speak of this, we ought at least by official and deliberate adoption of the principle here indicated, to do away with that enormous evil, that endless source of constant strife which is offered by the identification of country with race.

When the principle above stated has been officially fixed by an authentic decision of all the states of Europe, then the main cause of wars and of constant mutual mistrust and of endless armaments will disappear; for then people will never again anywhere be able to say: “The fatherland is in danger.” Right well we know that the words “fatherland in danger” do not mean that somebody wants to tear away a portion of our fatherland and cast it into the sea, or that somebody wants to steal for himself the property of its inhabitants; but those words usually mean simply: “There is a danger imminent, that in a certain territory where hitherto my race was master, and other people were only more or less tolerated, perhaps to-morrow another race will become master, and mine will be merely tolerated.”

When over the whole of Europe there shall be a reign of political justice, absolute, or in other words natural, the same everywhere and for all, when in every country all the inhabitants shall be morally and materially invested with complete equality of rights, when countries shall no longer bear racial names, when the state language shall cease to have a character bearing on race dominance and oppression (lit. racially Chauvinistic and humiliating), and there shall no longer exist tyrant races and subject races—then there will no longer exist any cause for interracial wars; then every one will be able to rest quite calmly in his natural, only-true and sincerely beloved native land; he need no longer fear that somebody may “take it away” from him, and he need not dream of taking from other people their native land.

Full well I know that hatred between the races will not disappear suddenly, in one day, not matter what arrangement the diplomatists might come to. But this is a matter for the subsequent labours of private persons, by public speech, education, influence of custom, and so forth; all we expect of you, diplomatists, is that you will afford us the opportunity of doing this. Mutual ill-will between the various races of mankind is not a natural thing, any more than mutual ill-will is a natural thing as between the various families of one race: if we set aside our want of mutual understanding and acquaintance, which admits of an easy remedy, this ill-will has its source only in the existence of domineering races and oppressed races, in the blind egoism, haughtiness, and misrepresentations of the former, and the natural resistance of the latter. It is easy to fraternise men who are free and who enjoy equal rights, but it is impossible to fraternise men, some of whom consider themselves the rightful masters of the rest.

Even if you should achieve nothing else, if you should only abolish the racial names of the countries (a thing very easy to do), you would in this way have done a work of extraordinary importance, you would have created a new era in the history of Europe. For in a country with a neutral name the quite natural complete equality of rights of all its inhabitants must be realized inevitably sooner or later, but in a country bearing a race name equality of rights will never be complete and lasting, for the unfortunate name will not only seem to justify the most despicable interracial abuses in those countries of Eastern Europe where the races are mingles, but even in more civilized countries it will always warp the judgment of even the most right-minded citizens, ever perpetuating in them the belief and impression that the country belongs only to that race whose name it bears, and that all its other races are but aliens there. Even with the best of good will, the citizens of that country cannot accustom themselves to the idea that they all constitute one nation, for there is simply no word in existence for such a nation, and the inhabitant, when asked to what people he belongs, is compelled for want of that word to give the name of a race; and this constant compulsory ascription of himself to some particular race, instead of to the general nation of that country, is a strong incentive to racial Chauvinism and civil discord.

Summing up all that I have said, I repeat:—

When after the end of the war the diplomatists assemble, they will be able to make changes in the map of Europe; but that should not be their chief labour. Their chief labour should be: to establish in the name and under the guarantee of their governments laws more or less of the following nature:—

  1. Every state belongs morally and materially to all its natural and naturalised inhabitants, whatever be their language, religion, or supposed origin; no race in the state must have greater or smaller rights or duties than the other races.
  2. Every subject has full right to use that language or dialect which he prefers, and to profess whatever religion he wishes. Only in the public institutions which have no special relation to one race that language shall be used which by common consent of the subjects has been accepted as the state language. In those public institutions which have a specially local character another language may be used instead of the state language, if not less than nine-tenths of the citizens have given their consent to it. But the language of the state or of the city must be looked upon not as a humiliating tribute which subject races owe to a dominant race, but only as a concession made voluntarily and for the sake of convenience by the minority to the majority.
  3. For all wrongs done in any state, the government of that state is responsible to a Permanent Pan-European Tribunal, set up by the common consent of all the European States.
  4. Every state and every province must bear the name not of any race, but one neutrally geographical, accepted by common agreement of all the states.

Gentlemen, diplomatists! After the terrible murderous war which has set mankind lower than the most savage beasts, Europe looks to you for peace. It looks not for a temporary pacification, but for a constant peace, such as alone is worthy of a civilised human race. But remember, remember, remember, that the only means to attain such a peace is: to remove once for all the chief cause of the wars, the barbarous survival from pre-civilised antiquity, the dominance of race over race.

Dr. L. L. Zamenhof

SOURCE: Zamenhof, L. L. “Post la granda milito: Alvoko al la diplomatoj”; “After the Great War: An Appeal to Diplomatists,” translated by Alfred Edward Wackrill (A.E.W.), The British Esperantist, vol. 11, no. 123, March 1915, pp. 51–55.

Note on archaic language expressions: In the Esperanto version the word ‘raso’ is used only once: ‘homa raso’ = ‘human race’. Zamenhof here consistently uses the word ‘gento’, which has a range of meanings, but generally not ‘race’ as the term is used today, while ‘raso’ includes all these meanings plus the (pseudo-) biological notion of ‘race’, as the English word was also once used. The translator consistently translates ‘gento’ as ‘race’, whereas the word refers to any human grouping of common descent: ethnicity, people, nation, etc., any one of which we would use today instead of ‘race’.

This was the first publication. The Esperanto text subsequently appeared in:

Esperanto, vol. 12, no. 4, 1915, pp. 42-43 (as “Alvoko al diplomatio. Letero de doktoro L. L. Zamenhof”).

La Verda Standardo (oficiala organo de la Hungarlanda Esperanto-Asocio), 1915, no. 8, pp. 1-4.

Post la granda milito: alvoko al la diplomatoj. San Vito al Tagliamento: Paolet, 1922. (Malgranda kolekto de “L’ Esperanto") (Monograph).

Originala Verkaro: Antaŭparoloj, Gazetartikoloj, Traktaĵoj, Paroladoj, Leteroj, Poemoj; kolektitaj & ordigitaj de Joh[annes]. Dietterle (Leipzig: Ferdinand Hirt & Sohn, 1929), pp. 353-357.

A Russian translation of an inaccurately transcribed, abridged version of the Esperanto text appears on the web site of МИР ЭСПЕРАНТО.

For the Esperanto text, see: Post la Granda Milito: ALVOKO AL LA DIPLOMATOJ de D-ro L. L. Zamenhof, La Balta Ondo, 14 Decembro 2014.  Readers’ comments are appended on the blog.

There it states that the text was probably written at the end of 1914 and references letters from Zamenhof to Sebert: 30 Dec 1914 & 6 Feb 1915.

A facsimile of the original bi-lingual publication can be found here at the Austrian National Library.

Marjorie Boulton’s extracts of quotations from the text (her English translation) are reproduced below.

The four enumerated principles of Zamenhof’s address are translated in:

Korzhenkov, Aleksandr. Zamenhof: The Life, Works, and Ideas of the Author of Esperanto, English translation and notes by Ian M. Richmond, edited by Humphrey Tonkin (New York: Mondial, 2010), p. 79. Abridged by the author from Homarano: La vivo, verkoj kaj ideoj de d-ro L.L. Zamenhof. Kaliningrad-Kaunas: Sezonoj, 2009 (kun Litova Esperanto-Asocio). Online version from Esperantic Studies Foundation differs from printed book: see pp. 47-48 of the PDF file.

Marjorie Boulton: translations of excerpts from Zamenhof’s appeal

[These translated quotes are excerpted from Boulton’s account of and comments on Zamenhof’s text, prefaced by the following paragraph, here italicized.]

Somehow Zamenhof managed to send a small Esperanto leaflet from Warsaw to England; it appeared in The British Esperantist in Esperanto and English, with a request that other papers would copy it; it was Zamenhof's political testament. It was called After the Great War—Appeal to the Diplomats. Zamenhof used his own name; it was published in several papers. Zamenhof began:

*     *     *

A terrible war has now seized upon almost the whole of Europe. When the vast mutual slaughter, which so deeply shames the civilized world, has come to an end, the diplomats will assemble and will try to set the relations between the peoples in order once again. To you, the future restorers of order, I turn now.

When you assemble after the most exterminatory war that history has ever known, you will have before you an extraordinarily great and important task. It will depend on you whether the world is to have, from then onwards, an established peace for a very long time and perhaps for ever, or whether we shall have only a short period of quiet, which will soon be interrupted again by the breaking out of fresh racial conflicts or even new wars.

*     *     *

Will you begin a simple remaking or patching of the map of Europe? Will you simply decide that piece of earth A belongs to people X and piece of earth B to people Y? It is true that you will have to do this work; but it ought to be only an unimportant part of your work; take care that the remaking of the map is not the whole essential of your work, for if so your work will remain valueless, and the tremendous blood sacrifice of mankind will be in vain.

However much you wish to satisfy the peoples, however much you try to be fair to the different races, you will achieve nothing by remaking the map, for this apparent justice to one people will be at the same time an injustice to another people. The present is not like ancient times: not one race, but many races, have toiled and shed their blood over every disputed piece of earth; and if you decide, that this or that piece of earth must belong to this or that race, you will not only not do justice, but you will also not prevent future war over that piece of earth.

*     *     *

Proclaim loudly, as an official, firmly agreed and fully guaranteed decision of all the European Powers the following elementary, natural, but not so far, unfortunately, observed principle: EVERY LAND MORALLY AND MATERIALLY BELONGS OF EQUAL RIGHT TO ALL ITS SONS.

*     *     *

It would be best, if instead of various large and small European states we had some day a proportionally and geographically arranged United States of Europe. But if it is now premature to speak of this, at least the endless source of constant conflict which is presented by the identifying of a land with a people should be removed by the official and agreed acceptance of the principle defined above.

*     *     *

It is very well known, that the words “the country is in danger” do not mean that someone is going to tear away a part of our country and throw it into the sea, or that anyone is going to rob the inhabitants of their possessions, but, most commonly, those words simply mean: “There is a danger, that on a certain piece of land, where so far my race was master, and other people were only more or less tolerated, tomorrow another race will become master and my race will be merely tolerated.”

*     *     *

I know quite well that the hatred between the races will not disappear suddenly, in one day, whatever arrangements the diplomats may make. But this will be a task for private persons, by preaching, education, acclimatization and so on; we expect no more of you, diplomats, than the possibility of doing this . . . It is easier to bring brotherhood to people who are free and have equal rights, but it is impossible where some people regard themselves as being the rightful masters over others.

*     *     *

Gentlemen, diplomats! After the terrible war of extermination which has set mankind lower than the most brutish beasts, Europe looks to you for peace. It looks not for a brief interval of pacification, but a permanent peace, such as is alone fitting for a civilized human race. But remember, remember, remember, that the only means by which such a peace can be attained is: to abolish for ever the chief cause of wars, the barbarous survival from the most remote pre-civilized antiquity, the dominance of one race over other races.

*     *     *

SOURCE: Boulton, Marjorie. Zamenhof, Creator of Esperanto (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960), pp. 193-195.

For further historical context, see:

The Practical Internationalism of Esperanto” by Xavier Alcalde (International Catalan Institute for Peace), Peace in Progress, nº 24, September 2015. (Pacifists During the First World War: In Depth.)

April 14, 2017 was the 100th anniversary of Zamenhof’s death during World War I. See this web site, available in 31 languages to date:

Zamenhof: Creator of the international language Esperanto
The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of L.L. Zamenhof
Commemorated under the auspices of UNESCO

Zamenhof: La iniciatinto de Esperanto
Centa Mortodatreveno de L. L. Zamenhof
Solenata sub la aŭspicio de Unesko

International Language” by L. L. Zamenhof
(Esperanto version below)

Gentoj kaj Lingvo Internacia (1911) de L. L. Zamenhof

The Second Universal Congress of Esperanto: Opening Address, Geneva, Switzerland, 28 August 1906
de L. L. Zamenhof; partial translation from Esperanto by Marjorie Boulton, completed by Ralph Dumain

Letero al Kofman (Odeso, 15 [ 28] majo 1901) de L. L. Zamenhof

El Projektata Alvoko al Kongreso por Neŭtrale-Homa Religio
de L. L. Zamenhof / Edmond Privat

Zamenhof & la Hebrea Ligo (1914)

"Esperanto and Its Originator: How a Jew Came to Create a "Universal Language"
by Isidore Harris

Race, Equality of Intellect, & the History of Civilization
(extract from From “Superman” to Man)
by J. A. Rogers

First Universal Races Congress, London, July 26-29, 1911: Selected Bibliography

Zamenhof & Zamenhofologio: Retgvidilo / Web Guide

Esperanto, Vaŝingtono, & la Mondo / Esperanto, Washington, & the World — 1910
Centjara Jubileo / Centennial — 2010

Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo al Esperanto & Interlingvistiko

Offsite / Alireteje:

Du poemoj de L. L. Zamenhof tradukitaj de Marjorie Boulton

Zamenhof @ Ĝirafo

Alfred Edward Wackrill - Vikipedio

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