AIIC Tribute to the Pioneers of Simultaneous Interpretation

The International Association of Conference Interpreters paid tribute to:

The pioneers of simultaneous interpretation

London, 30 September 2014

The Nuremberg Trials were a turning point in history: they laid the foundations of international criminal justice as we know it today. The Trials also witnessed the breakthrough of another phenomenon that has been shaping international economic and political relations ever since: the art of simultaneous interpreting. Whereas the legal aspects of the Trials have been researched and analysed from many different viewpoints, the contribution of the interpreters, without whom the four-language proceedings of 1945 would not have been possible, has always remained in the background.

AIIC (the International Association of Conference Interpreters) paid tribute to the original Nuremberg interpreters in London on International Translation Day, 30 September 2014, with a photographic exhibition and panel discussion moderated by Professor Margot Horspool, LLB, LLM. The panel included experienced international and legal experts, including Professor Philippe Sands, QC and eminent human rights barrister, who interviewed Mr. Siegfried Ramler, one of the pioneering Nuremberg Trials interpreters, and Ms. Kate Mackintosh, Deputy Registrar at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The panelists talked about their experiences, the right to understand and to be understood, and the challenges facing interpreters. Reference was also made to AIIC's Interpreters in Conflict Zones project, which seeks to achieve greater protection and legal recognition for all local interpreters working for international troops in conflict zones.

The growth of simultaneous interpretation

The system of simultaneous interpretation used at Nuremberg was created in order to allow the court proceedings to be conducted in several languages at the same time. It was crafted by trial and error in an attic room of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. Now it is used all over the world and has greatly improved communication, thereby promoting better understanding among nations. Put to the test at the Trials, simultaneous interpreting really took off during the second half of the twentieth century and has become an indispensable means of communication among the international community. Nowadays, interpreters are active not only in conference rooms and courtrooms but in all kinds of situations requiring communication.

The exhibition enabled visitors to see the Trials from the perspective of the interpreters. Guests had a chance to take a look inside an interpreting booth and learn how simultaneous interpreting works.

Part of the event was simultaneously interpreted.

Siegfried Ramler

Nuremberg interpreter Siegfried Ramler's remarkable life and career span decades on several continents. Born in Vienna, he escaped to England through the Kindertransport programme when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. He lived in London during the Blitz. At the end of the war he became an interpreter at Nuremberg, and worked there until 1949 as a member of the team that pioneered the application of simultaneous interpretation. After Nuremberg, he settled in Hawaii where he is known both for his work at the Trials and for his lifelong dedication to education as evidenced in his work at Hawaii’s Punahou Academy and the East-West Center, where he presently serves as Senior Fellow.


The International Association of Conference Interpreters is the only global association of conference interpreters, and brings together over 3,000 professionals from every continent. In 2009 AIIC established its Interpreters in Conflict Zones project. These interpreters are often non-professional linguists, yet they play a key role in communications. Operating in high-risk environments, they are extremely vulnerable and require special protection both during and post-conflict.

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Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "AIIC Tribute to the Pioneers of Simultaneous Interpretation". July 16, 2014. Accessed February 20, 2020. <>.