Siegfried Ramler: Witness to history


POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2009

The phrase is “;having a front seat to history,”; and Siegfried Ramler has not only been in that seat, he also helped create history. This became apparent reading his entertaining autobiography, “;Nuremberg and Beyond,”; dealing largely with his work at the infamous war-crimes trials.

The winners get to decide what justice is and isn't, and the Nuremberg trials were the first worldwide media event following World War II.

The Allies tried Nazi war leaders as criminals, using criminal statutes rather than diplomatic traditions, and as a result—with potential war-crimes charges brought against Americans because of Iraq—the consequences of such actions have relevance today.





        By Siegfried Ramler

Publisher: Ahuna Press


Price: $25




Born and raised in Austria, with two elder sisters settled in the nascent Zionist state of Palestine, Ramler was transported out of the country just before war broke out.

In London, living with uncles, he studied languages and aided during the Blitz. As the conflict wound down, a call went out for interpreters at the planned trials. Ramler applied and was accepted, and as a very young man found himself in uniform, rubbing elbows with Nazi scum and Allied lawyers.

Ramler's experiences at the trials are fascinating and form the heart of the book. He describes it as an odd, heightened ambience, one in which one felt cut off not just from the world, but from the past and present.

He also met a girl there, an intriguing young Hawaiian-Chinese named Pi'ilani Ahuna. They fell in love but mutually decided to call it off so she could marry a fellow with better prospects. The other husband, however, died unexpectedly, and Siegfried and Ahuna were thrust together once more.

A young man essentially without a nation, Ramler decided to stay in Hawaii with Ahuna. He accepted a language-teaching position at Punahou School and eventually rose to a prestigious position there over the years, becoming a noted expert in international education.

Ramler's formative experience dealing with the complexities of international interpretation at Nuremberg gave rise to new disciplines in education around the world. This is the “;beyond”; of “;Nuremberg and Beyond,”; a well-illustrated and attractive autobiography of someone with lessons to teach us all.