In memoriam Julius Glück: From Duschnik to Berlin, Paris, Amtsfort, Auschwitz

Julius Glück was a child of the Habsburg Empire. He was born in 1877 in Duschnik (today’s Czech Republic) some 35 km north of Prague. Born in 1877 Glück was also a child of the “second generation” of Esperanto-speakers. And an ardent one. Tragically, as so many of this generation of Esperanto-speakers, he was persecuted, transferred to Auschwitz where he died on 7 September 1942. The persecution of the Esperanto-community in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is best documented in Ulrich Lins work “Dangerous Language”. Julius Glück

Glück was around 30 years old when he was introduced to Esperanto – in Berlin 1907. He was an engineer and ran his own business in the capital of the Wilhelmine Empire in the early years of the twentieth century. By then, the Esperanto movement was thriving and was making some waves. It was the year of the third international Esperanto Congress, held in Cambridge in 1907. Journals had been launched, clubs were thriving in capitals, urban centres from Paris to Prague, but also in many more rural communities. Many Esperanto-speakers had high hopes for the language to secure peace, enhance international communication, and cultural understanding. It attracted people from “alternative” cultures like vegans and vegetarians. But it also attracted many scientists, pharmacists, physicians, and engineers. Just like Glück.

Glück had luck – or Glück (in German). In Berlin, he made the acquaintance of Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald. Born in Riga in 1853, Ostwald made a stellar career in chemistry, holding chairs in Riga, later in Leipzig until his retirement in 1906. He also served as the first exchange professor at Harvard University in 1904 and 1905. In 1901, a certain Albert Einstein applied for a position with Ostwald in Leipzig – and was rejected. Ostwald himself received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1909. By then, he had noticed the work of Einstein, nominating him for the Nobel Prize in 1910 and again in 1913.

When Glück and Ostwald met in Berlin in 1907, Ostwald was a very active Esperantist himself – and he fits the “first” Esperanto pattern well. Ludwik L. Zamenhof was only six years his junior. And it seems that Glück was an ardent learner. Glück threw himself into the world of Esperanto. He joined the movement at all levels and scales from the local to the inter/transnational and vice versa: he became a member of the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (UEA), of the Germana Esperanto-Asocio (GEO), as well as the Esperanto-Ligo Berlin. In 1916 we see him as a solider of the Austro-Hungarian army in Galicia outside a shelter saying: “Heim (home) = Esperanto”. In November 1932 he was honoured for his dedicated 25-year membership of the Berlin Ligo. Also, in November 1932 the National-Socialist party took 33% of the vote in the federal elections.

For years, Glück had contributed to a number of Esperanto journals including Lingvo Internacia, La Revuo, Esperanto and the Heroldo de Esperanto. But in 1933 Germany was no longer a safe place to be for Esperanto-speakers and activists. As so many others, Glück decided to leave Germany. He settled in Paris. But he did not leave Esperanto behind. On the contrary. In Paris he lectured and taught Esperanto. Glück was widely known in the Esperanto community. In 1935 he followed an invitation by Julia Catharina Isbrücker (1887-1971) to settle in Amersfort in the Netherlands. Isbrücker was one of the most well-known Esperantists in the Netherlands. She was one of the leading figures behind the organisation of the International Congress in The Hague in 1920 and again in 1928. In the Netherlands Glück found not only refuge but a thriving Esperanto community around the Internacia Esperanto-Instituto, founded in 1930 and dedicated to the teaching of the language along the Cseh-metodo, named after the Romanian-Hungarian Esperantist Andreo (András Gergely János) Cseh (1895-1979). 

On 1st of September 1942 Glück was deported to the concentration camp of Westerbork and from there to Auschwitz. Bernhard Rust, the German Minister for Science, Education, and Public Education, had banned the teaching of Esperanto in German schools as early as May 1935 as it was it would lead to the “weakening of the essential values of national character”. The persecution of Esperantists in Nazi Germany was thorough and brutal (Lins 2017). Esperantist were persecuted in Imperial Japan, Portugal, Italy, and Franco Spain. Glück was just one individual among many others. He was murdered the same year that Lidia Zamenhof (1904-192), the youngest of Zamenhof’s daughters, was killed in Treblinka.

Lins, Ulrich. Dangerous Language — Esperanto under Hitler and Stalin (2017).

P.S. I would like to thank Nicolai Eberholst who brought Julius Glück to my attention on Twitter. Writing a blogpost on Glück was inspired by some follow on comments via Twitter.

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