What do Siegfried Ramler and I have in common? Well, not a whole lot, besides our both being Hawaii residents and having a passion for running.
Sig has retired from running while I’m still chugging along, doing 5Ks to half-marathons. But, hey, I’m 10 years his junior! I’ll explain the T-shirts at the end.
Sig has an incredible personal story, dating back to World War II and its aftermath.
In March 1938, as a 14-year-old Austrian Jewish schoolboy, he watched Wehrmacht troops enter Vienna. Through drawn curtains, he observed the coming of the swastika and the jubilation of a multitude of Austrians.
His family was soon thrown out of their home. Shortly after the infamous Kristallnacht, Sig was sent to London to live with his uncle in north London.
Toward the end of the war, in 1945, Sig signed up with the U.S. Air Force to work as a linguist in Germany. When he learned of the trial of Nazi leaders, he went AWOL and hitched a ride to Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice.
There he was recruited to serve as an interpreter. Within days he found himself sitting in a small room with defendant Hans Frank and a military interrogator. Without any training, he interpreted the pre-trial interrogations of the man who came to be known as “the Butcher of Warsaw.”
Sig shoved to the background any hate for this man and determined to do a good, accurate job of simultaneous translation. “I was just 22. I just concentrated on the job,” he told an interviewer for the Guardian. “I was there to interpret, not to judge.”
Ten times he heard the presiding judge, speak the words “Death by Hanging.”
Marriage to a Hawaiian reporter on the Nuremberg trial staff led Sig to the Islands and a long career at Punahou School as a teacher and administrator and, later, as founding director of the Wo International Center at the East-West Center.
It was in Hawaii that he developed a love for running. No surprise, he ran with determination and ran well. I should know! As 10 years his junior I did many races with him.
Which brings me back to the photo above. The Over the Hill Gang is a group of octogenarian (or older!) runners and former runners. The group meets for lunch once a month, in a lovely setting on Oahu’s windward side.
A new production of the T-shirts was distributed at our February meeting, and we immediately donned them, with pride.