INFLUENTIAL INTERPRETERS IN EAST AND WEST EUROPE

Interpreters have gone through a rocky history in Europe. From periods of time where they were revered and housed in royal accommodations to periods of extreme distrust and even death, interpreters have still played key roles in the development of society. Here are three recent historical figures.

André Kaminker was a pioneering interpreter who worked in the League of Nations. He was a Polish Jew, born in France, who grew up to become an officer in the French army. In 1934 he developed his own system of simultaneous interpretation for French radio and used it to translate Hitler’s first major speech. In 1940 he fled to England to join General De Gaulle, leaving behind his wife and three children, one of whom later became known as Simone Signoret – one of France’s greatest film stars.

Richard Sonnenfelt was recruited in Austria as a German/English interpreter. He was born in 1923 to Jewish parents in Germany, who moved to England in 1938 to escape the Nuremberg Laws. After Germany attacked England he was imprisoned, sent to Australia, then released. He emigrated to India and then the U.S. where he joined the army and became a citizen. He was then sent back to Europe to fight until the war was over. There he ended up working with US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson as his chief interpreter, sitting behind the judge while prosecuting Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.

Peter Less was a Holocaust survivor who also interpreted during the Nuremberg Trials. Born in Germany, he fled to Switzerland at the age of 17 when the Nazis came to power. The rest of his family were subsequently killed in concentration camps. Peter earned an interpreters degree from the University of Geneva on a refugee scholarship program. He was one of the first trained simultaneous interpreters in Europe. When he was 25, Peter interpreted for the Nuremberg Trials, attempting to give a fair trial to the very Nazi leaders responsible for his family’s deaths.

These three interpreters and many others are known because of the wide publicity given to Europe’s two world wars and the Nuremberg Trials. But other European interpreters have played key roles in Europe’s history too, especially with spreading the influence of Christianity, and exploring and colonizing other lands.

Interpreters are used in many ways these days, not just law or diplomacy. If you need an interpreter for any reason, Dialog One has over 150 languages to choose from. Be sure to contact us when you are ready.