Peter and the Interpreter


According to Mark’s Almanac of WKSU November 20, 1945, commemorates when the first of thirteen Nuremberg trials began to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. The criminal proceedings required interpretation for defendants and judges in English, Russian, French, and German. Hence, the birth of simultaneous interpretation with team interpreting. US Army Lieutenant Colonel Leon Dostert recruited Peter Less (1929-2019) to serve as a simultaneous interpreter from English and French into German.


Peter lost his mother, father, sister and grandmother to the Holocaust. Nataly Kelly writes that Less interpreted for the people who murdered his family. Yet he sat feet away from the Nazi criminals and dispassionately rendered their testimony in open court and depositions. Seventy-five years ago people proclaimed that simultaneous interpretation was impossible. History proved otherwise. 


Peter spoke on his experience at Nuremberg at the American Translators Association 46th Annual Conference. I attended the workshop where he focused on the process, that is, all team members collaborated to assure a clean record for the court. His colleagues also translated documents and supported one another to remain calm midst an emotionally-charged experience.

A mentor years ago taught me to thank any speaker with a handshake. Once Peter concluded the talk many flocked to his side. For a brief moment I “shook hands with history” and thanked him for his service.

Whom did you meet over the years who left an impression? Please comment below. Thanks.

Published by The Interpreter Fellow

I am an Ohio State Certified Court Interpreter and Certified Healthcare Interpreter in Spanish. MA Translation from The Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University. Currently I serve Akron Children's Hospital Pediatrics and local courts.

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thoughts on interpreting

Liam O'Dell

Freelance Journalist and Campaigner News

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