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I'm writing a paper on the Walter Ulbricht "niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten" speech and wanted to do an analysis of how it was interpreted into French and English. Does anyone know any resources where I could begin my hunt? I'm guessing there isn't a database somewhere of interpreted East German speeches, but if there is, now is the time to speak up.

asked 08 Jan '15, 05:45

charlielee's gravatar image


edited 08 Jan '15, 07:04

Do you know for a fact that the international press conference of June 15th 1961 was interpreted live into FR and EN?

You could try, their public archives don't show anything concerning Walter Ulbricht in 1961, but they also have a paying archive service AFAIK.

(08 Jan '15, 08:10) Gaspar ♦♦

I'm pretty positive it wasn't at the press conference (no one in the video has headsets, from what I see). But I'm assuming it was aired on TV in French and English speaking countries with VO interpreting. I suppose I should poke around French, British and American TV archives and see.

(08 Jan '15, 11:15) charlielee

I doubt if it was aired on English or French TV at all at the time as this remark only became relevant AFTER the wall had been built (a few months later). Therefore it would only have been dug up, translated and quoted after the event. As such it is most likely a later translation of a transcript of the speech which was then read by an announcer on EN or FR TV (if at all).

(08 Jan '15, 15:09) Andy

That's a good point. This paper that seemed so clever is now like a hopelessly sinking ship. Maybe I'll do the same thing but with a different Ulbricht speech. Maybe one at an international conference that was interpreted.

(08 Jan '15, 16:22) charlielee

It was at a press conference and Ulbricht was answering a question put by Annemarie Doherr.

Annemarie Doherr: "Ich möchte eine Zusatzfrage stellen, Doherr, "Frankfurter Rundschau". Herr Vorsitzender, bedeutet die Bildung einer freien Stadt Ihrer Meinung nach, dass die Staatsgrenze am Brandenburger Tor errichtet wird, und sind Sie entschlossen, dieser Tatsache mit allen Konsequenzen Rechnung zu tragen?"

Ulbricht: "Ich verstehe ihre Frage so, dass es Menschen in Westdeutschland gibt, die wünschen, dass wir die Bauarbeiter der Hauptstadt der DDR mobilisieren, um eine Mauer aufzurichten, ja? Mir ist nicht bekannt, dass solche Absicht besteht, da sich die Bauarbeiter in der Hauptstadt hauptsächlich mit Wohnungsbau beschäftigen und ihre Arbeitskraft voll eingesetzt wird. Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!"

It's quite possible that there wasn't an EN and FR booth, but only foreign correspondents who at the time did speak German. And a broadcast, if any, dubbed into the target language, but not actually live interpreted simultaneously.

(08 Jan '15, 17:04) Gaspar ♦♦

Thank you for the link Gaspar. It seems like 'Absicht' was really his mot du jour.

(08 Jan '15, 18:56) charlielee
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

I found this fairly quickly via Google. Seems like a Berlin Wall museum! You could ask them where they got the EN version from. (Though it is most likely a modern translation of a transcript of the speech being read by the voice-over guy)

permanent link

answered 08 Jan '15, 15:01

Andy's gravatar image


Yeah, everything I could find seemed like modern read-out translations done after the fact. The angle I was hoping to attack the paper from was only really relevant to the in-the-moment booth decisions. Thank you for the link, though!

(08 Jan '15, 16:36) charlielee

Hi Charlielee, If you're really set on writing about interpreting in the DDR then you should probably read this...

Ein Diener vieler Herren: Als Dolmetscher bei den Mächtigen der Welt Wolfgang Ghantus

(09 Jan '15, 02:34) Andy
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question asked: 08 Jan '15, 05:45

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