Wars, languages and the role(s) of interpreters

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Wars, languages and the role(s) of interpreters

Postwar situation
The postwar situation has also numerous implications. The aftermath of wars can sometimes entail mass population movements, for example through exile or resettlements along new political or administrative borders. There is also the issue of demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of combatants in civilian life, phenomena that often take place across political and language borders. There can be resistance pockets or liberation movements when territories previously occupied by an enemy are freed by national or international forces. In some cases, occupation of territories follows the end of hostilities, with the sequel of reparations, relations of occupying armies with local civilian people, relief operations, etc. And, finally, there is the settlement of responsibilities in military tribunals, with the string of actions, from detention and interrogation of prisoners in the search for evidence to turn them into defendants, to the court trial and the acquittal, imprisonment even death of those convicted. Interpreters are often recruited because they "know" both the local language/dialect and English, the language of international relief operations, and not because they have been trained as translators or interpreters. It is safe to say that hardly any have undergone training in interpreting, as the results of the first phase of our project confirm. Thus, they lack both essential professional skills to perform adequately as interpreters, as well as the necessary professional ethics to support crisis management and humanitarian efforts in a stressful environment.
(Moser-Mercer & Bali 2008) The evacuation of foreign combatants from Spain a few months after the war ended received support from the League of Nations. Ina document from the Archives of that Organisation we can find the following reference with the detailed number of meetings covered by a professional interpreter detached from the Geneva Headquarters From the 2nd to the 25th January, 1939, Monsieur CONFINO was called upon to act as Interpreter at 32 meetings of the International Commission for the withdrawal of non-
Spanish Combatants. (Negotiations take place among the Allies, as can be illustrated by the successive summit conferences of Tehran (1943), Yalta and Potsdam (1945) after WWII, all of which needed the services of interpreters. But those negotiations also took place at lower
Memorandum of 18.4.39 from Mr. H. Villate to the Treasurer, the Internal Control Officer and the Chief Accountant, League of Nations Archives, Geneva, Dossier Confino.

levels, as shown for instance in a colour transparency (photo 5) from 12 July 1945 in which Field Marshal Montgomery appears decorating Russian generals at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Churchill, on his way back from Yalta, stopped in Cairo, where he met with King 'Abd al-'Aziz Ibn Saud through the Kings interpreter as shown in another photograph (photo 6) from the Imperial War Museum collection. The official end of hostilities requires interpreters to work in the armistice and later on in peace negotiations. An interesting study on the roles played by interpreters at the peace negotiations in Panmunjom (1953) which paved the way for the armistice after the Korean war can be found in Fernández Sánchez (2010). Interpreting at the Nuremberg Trials has been studied among others by Gaiba (1998) and Baigorri (2000). Interpreting at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal has been studied by
Shveitser (1999) and Takeda (b, 2010). In fact, it has been said that the Nuremberg trials witnessed for the first time the use of simultaneous interpreting, although research carried out by several authors mentioned in this article, including this author, attest to the fact that the simultaneous mode had been used almost twenty years before Nuremberg. Many of the photos taken from that famous trial show defendants with their Photo 5: Imperial War Museum Collection. ITEM NAME:TR2918 (12 July 1945). Left to right The Commander of the 7th Armoured Division, Major General LO Lyne; Marshal V Sokolovsky of the Red Army the Deputy Supreme Commander in Chief of the Red Army, Marshal G Zhukov Colonel General
Melinius of the Red Army the Commander of the st Army Group, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery an interpreter from the Royal Engineers and Marshal K Rossokovsky of the Red Army at the Brandenberg [sic] Gate after a ceremony in which Field Marshal Montgomery decorated the Russian Generals. Link http://www.iwmcollections.org.uk/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll?AC=NEXT_RECORD&XC=/dbtw- wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll&BU=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iwmcollections.org.uk%2FqryMain.php&TN=Unca t&SN=AUTO14303&SE=6363&RN=193&MR=25&TR=0&TX=1000&ES=0&CS=1&XP=&RF=allRes ults&EF=&DF=allDetails&RL=0&EL=0&DL=0&NP=1&ID=&MF=WPENGMSG.INI&MQ=&TI=0&
DT=&ST=0&IR=0&NR=0&NB=7&SV=0&BG=0&FG=0&QS= Photo 6: Imperial War Museum Collection. ITEM NAME MEM 2179 (February 1945) Winston Churchill sits with King 'Abd al-'Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia during lunch at Auberge due Lac,
Fayoum, in February 1945. The King's interpreter is standing behind him. Link http://www.iwmcollections.org.uk/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll?AC=NEXT_RECORD&XC=/dbtw- wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll&BU=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iwmcollections.org.uk%2FqryMain.php&TN=Unca t&SN=AUTO14303&SE=6363&RN=212&MR=25&TR=0&TX=1000&ES=0&CS=1&XP=&RF=allRes ults&EF=&DF=allDetails&RL=0&EL=0&DL=0&NP=1&ID=&MF=WPENGMSG.INI&MQ=&TI=0&

headphones on and with along wire hanging from them (photo Those images are an excellent representation of the invisibility / inaudibility of interpreters, who are the missing (critical) link for communication to happen, the gatekeepers who are seldom seen in the Trials photographs, as if their ellipsis or omission were a silent way a sort of a semiotics of silence to represent the actual bridge in the communication gap.

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