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If Only We Knew ...

Matt Schudel

In today's paper (Sept. 20), we have an obituary of Ernest Peter Uiberall, an Army lieutenant colonel who was an interpreter during the Nazi war crime trials at Nuremberg after World War II. Uiberall had a fascinating, if harrowing life. He was born in Vienna and was part of the Viennese literary scene in his teens and 20s and even helped to found a couple of literary magazines. He was fluent in at least three languages, highly cultured and working in his family's import-export business in Paris in 1938 when he had to flee Europe to escape Nazi persecution of Jewish people.

He ended up in the United States and, out of gratitude, joined the Army. He became the lead German translator at Nuremberg, in what was the first widespread use of simultaneous translation in the world, and spoke directly with Hermann Goering and other members of the Nazi high command. Later, he was a translator (this time using his skills in French) in Vietnam.

But what I didn't know when I was writing the obituary was a fascinating biographical tidbit that makes Uiberall even more interesting. His niece e-mailed today and mentioned that her great-uncle, after all the other things he had been through in life, had a secondary career as a pianist in hotels. I love humanizing elements like that -- and would have happily included it in the obituary, if only I had known.

By Matt Schudel  |  September 20, 2007; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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This blog is wonderful - in its ability to include Post mortems like the above. Please keep 'em coming!

Posted by: Kristie | October 2, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

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