The Nuremberg trials. Craddle of simultaneous interpretation.


After the end of the Second World War, war crimes had been so extensive that victorious allied forces determined it was necessary to punish those responsible for creating such destruction and extermination machinery against humanity.

At the end it was decided the a trial by an International Military Court was important to educate the world about what had coccured.

These were the Nuremberg trials, that began on November 20, 1945, and ended on October 1, 1946.  The judges from allied powers (Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States) chaired the hearings of the 22 principle Nazi criminals.  Twelve prominent Nazis were sentenced to death.

Hours and hours of interviews, exams and observations generated an endless pile of documents that were lost in oblivion and in 2016 were rescued and compiled in a book called ‘’Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of Nazi War Criminals’’.

Nuremberg was chosen as venue for the trials given its symbolic value as a city, located in Bavaria, that had witnessed multiple parades and political manifestations attended by masses at the threshold of the Second World War.

There was also a pragmatic reason:  It had a Palace of Justice that had miraculously survived allied bombings and was suitable for installing the International Military Tribunal, plus an adjacent prison for adequate reclusion and vigilance of those under trial.

Without Simultaneous Interpretation the Nuremberg Trials were unviable.

It was the first time in history that every spoken idea was simultaneously interpreted into three languages in court.

Many said it could not be done, but it was.  And thus marked the birth of the Simultaneous Interpretation Profession.

‘’The interpreters and translators were the tacit heroes of the Nuremberg Trials’’, as written by Kimberly Guise,  subdirector of curator services of the United States Second World War Museum’’.

It was absolutely necessary for the trials to be conducted ‘’simultaneously in English, Russian, German and French for the British, American, Russian and French judges and prosecutors, and also for German defendants and their defense lawyers.

If interpretation of the trials had been consecutive instead of simultaneous, into four languages, ‘’the entire process would had lasted four times more’’, as told to BBC World by Philip Wiedermann, professor of translation and interpretation of the European University at Valencia.