Judgment and sentence in German cannibal case/Meiwes wegen Totschlag verurteilt

Spiegel online reports that Armin Meiwes (known as Armin M. in the German articles) has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter (Totschlag). He’s been sentenced to eight years and six months in prison. It was not murder because the court did not establish ‘niedrige Beweggründe’ (base motives) as required under German law.

The photo used (DPA) has a bit of a Neanderthal look about it. Meiwes usually looks better than that.

The German lawyers always suggest a judgment and sentence. The defence counsel suggested Tötung auf Verlangen (mercy killing at the request of the person killed); the prosecution said it was murder, carried out for sexual titillation.

This is a decision that is bound to be reported abroad too. Let’s look at the BBC News version.

bq. The defence had sought a verdict of illegal euthanasia, carrying a far shorter sentence of six months to five years, on the grounds that it had been a “killing on request”.
But while rejecting the defence’s argument, the court also ruled that Meiwes had had no “base motives” for the crime and settled on a manslaughter verdict, as Judge Volker Muetze told the packed courtroom.

I suppose most people will understand that it is voluntary, not involuntary, manslaughter involved, but still, translating Totschlag simply as manslaughter seems sloppy to me (I may be alone here). Euthanasia also omits the idea of the victim’s request, but that is added at the end of the sentence.

bq. The case could make legal history in a country which has no laws against cannibalism.

Aargh! I am so tired of reading that Germany has no laws against cannibalism. How many countries have?

bq. Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Meiwes sat impassively as the verdict was read out in court.

Ah, but was his lawyer wearing a white tie?

Now, The Independent (on the front page, the story is mysteriously listed under ‘UK News’).

bq. Prosecutors called Meiwes a “human butcher” who acted simply to “satisfy a sexual impulse” and had sought a life sentence for murder.
His defense argued that since the victim had volunteered to be killed and eaten, the crime should be classified a mercy killing, which carries a five-year maximum penalty.

I prefer ‘satisfy a sexual impulse’ (part of the German definition of murder) to the BBC’s ‘sexual murder’. But when did we British start spelling ‘defence’ with an S?

The Guardian presents an audio report. ‘ quite liked ‘killing on demand’. I don’t think anyone told the reporter how to pronounce ‘Meiwes’, which was coming over as ‘Mieweis’. The written report is somewhat similar to that of The Independent.

After consulting the New York Times, I abandoned the project, as I was getting the impression that all the reports were based on one account.

German literature in English /Deutsche Literatur auf Englisch

The English section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports today that a new online magazine, Litrix.de – German Literature Online – is going to present excerpts, specimen translations (whatever that is) and book reviews – in both German and English.

About 2,000 works of fiction written in English are translated into German every year, but only about 40 German titles into English (hmm, I wonder why that is?!)

A jury will select 30 works a year and 20 pages of each of these will be translated and presented. This sounds like an excellent idea, depending on what the jury choose, of course.

Uwe Timm, Am Beispiel meines Bruders /My Brother’s Example is up there already.

Many thanks to Gail Armstrong of openbrackets for the link.

Fürth blog Fürth blogt

I found I was writing less and less German and including more and more pictures of Fürth in this blog. I therefore decided to divert some material into a special Fürth blog.

Der Fürth blog – Fürther Freiheiten – ist wirklich zweisprachig.

The blog is in English and German. The texts aren’t always identical, especially when a text I’m referring to is available in German and not in English.

I have mixed feelings about the project. What I have been doing is giving impressions of life here to people outside Germany, even though many of my entries were meant for translators and lawyers inside Germany. The Fürth blog is of more narrow interest, mainly to people actually in Fürth, and as an outsider I may not have so much to say to them. I have copied over many past entries from Transblawg, and occasionally a future entry may be duplicated, but on the whole the two will be separate.

Rechtsterminologie-Portal/ Portal for legal terminology

Handakte WebLAWg reports that there is a portal for legal terminology and translation matters on the Saarbrücken JIPS website.

The portal is an initiative of three professors (for law and IT, translation of Romance languages, and Russian) and Karl-Heinz Freigang, well known to translators in Germany for his work and seminars on computer-aided translation.

There are already a lot of links. I found a reference to a book I don’t know, Wolfram Aigner (University of Linz) Einführung in die englische Rechtssprache, but it is badly let down by the second part of its title: introduction into legal English.

bq. 15 wichtige Bereiche des Rechts- und Wirtschaftslebens wie zB betreffend das Recht allgemein, öffentliches Recht, Privat-, Straf-, Verfahrens-, Handels-, Vertragsrecht bis hin zum Versicherungs- und Steuerrecht werden behandelt.
Original englischsprachige Texte führen den Leser/die Leserin rasch in den jeweiligen Themenbereich ein und ermöglichen ihm/ihr auf dem jeweiligen Fachgebiet als kompetente/r Gesprächspartner/in in englischer Sprache aufzutreten.
Zur leichteren Lesbarkeit des Textteiles werden unmittelbar anschließend seltener vorkommende Worte bzw. Fachausdrücke ins Deutsche übersetzt. Am Ende eines jeden Kapitels findet sich ein umfangreiches Verzeichnis zum Themenbereich gehöriger Termini bzw. einschlägige Redewendungen und Phrasen.
Der Anhang enthält ua ein Glossar in dem eine Reihe spezifischer Fachausdrücke aus dem anglo-amerikanischen Rechtsbereich erklärt werden, sowie unter der Überschrift “Key Words” eine umfangreiche Auflistung und Übersetzung ins Englische wichtiger Begriffe aus Recht und Wirtschaft.
1. Auflage 2003
250 Seiten, 17 x 24 cm, broschiert,
ISBN 3-85487-457-X
SBNr. 115.472

I’m curious about it, but it is obviously just a collection of texts milked for vocabulary, and the quality of the two-languages glossary is anyone’s guess. The editor’s name is German, and perhaps the English part of the title was her idea.

I am also a bit personally miffed as they have a reference to an article in the MDÜ about legal terminology which was full of errors, by someone with no knowledge of law, and should never have appeared.

Translating titles

Translating titles is a huge topic. I just want to refer to a couple.

One is the translation of film titles into German. The German ones are often strangely graphic. But I see Lost in Translation has not been translated. A curious one last year was the translation of Rabbit Proof Fence (English) into Long Way Home (German) (what I mean is, they left it in English but changed the English).

I recently read Atul Gawande’s Complications, a doctor’s story of what can go wrong in surgery, what to tell patients, how surgeons make guesses and so on. I wondered if it would have a market in Germany. I find it has been translated as Die Schere im Bauch (The scissors in the abdomen) by Susanne Kuhlmann-Krieg. I find that really does the book an injustice, reducing it to the most sensationalist level. Not that the title was necessarily chosen by the translator – titles are usually chosen by the publisher (and they are protected as trade marks, I believe).

LATER NOTE: Here is a good essay on German film titles:

The more inane the film the zanier the title: the flop courtroom farce “Jury Duty”, for instance, was inflated to Chaos! Schwiegersohn Junior im Gerichtssaal (Chaos! Son-in-Law Junior in the Courtroom). … Laurel and Hardy entirely sacrificed their names to the exigencies of zany titling, becoming the comedy team Dick and Doof – “Fat and Stupid” – in German. Thus “The Flying Deuces” are Dick and Doof in der Fremden Legion (Fat and Stupid in the Foreign Legion), and \Way out West” is Dick und Doof im Wilden Westen (Fat and Stupid in the Wild West).

Choice of language in court proceedings in South Tyrol

Richard Schneider, in the Nachrichtenportal, reported (in German) on January 24th about slow court proceedings in Südtirol /Trentino-Alto Adige.

Dr. Karl Zeller, an Italian MP, complained at the beginning of the legal year:

bq. „Das Gericht in Bozen ist eine der wenigen Institutionen in Südtirol, die nicht funktionieren.“ Um die Verfahren zu beschleunigen, sei einerseits mehr Justizpersonal erforderlich, aber andererseits müsse auch Schluss mit dem „Luxus“ sein, jedes einzelne Aktenstück zu übersetzen. Das solle nur noch für Urteile und richterliche Anordnungen gelten. Wer eine Übersetzung anderer Schriftstücke wünsche, müsse diese selbst anfordern – auf eigene Kosten.

bq. (The court in Bolzano does not work well. To accelerate proceedings, more personnel are needed, and we must also put an end to the luxury of translating every single document on the file. Only judgments and judicial orders should be translated. Anyone who wants another document translated should have to request this and pay for it).

Italian and German have equal rights in the area (see website of chamber of lawyers (in German or Italian)).

bq. Der Bürger, welcher einer Straftat beschuldigt wird, ist berechtigt, sich bei der Einvernehmung seiner Sprache zu bedienen. Wer als Zeuge in einem Gerichtsverfahren vorgeladen wird, kann seine Aussagen in der Muttersprache tätigen, auch wenn diese nicht der Verfahrenssprache entspricht. Auch im Zivilverfahren besteht die Möglichkeit der freien Sprachwahl.

(See earlier entry on the proceedings about Ötzi / the Iceman)

Those charged with a criminal offence may use their own language when examined ( bei der Einvernehmung – an Austrian term). Witnesses may speak their own language even if that is not the language of the proceedings. There is a right to free choice of language in civil proceedings too.

Court dress in Germany revisited

All I know about court dress in Germany is that I’ve seen a lawyer who had not yet put his gown on in the Landgericht (higher court of first instance) treated as if he were not there, which reminded me of the English custom where the judge says in reply to the improperly dressed lawyer, ‘I can’t hear you, Mr X’. There aren’t any robing rooms in German courts as far as I know.

Udo’s law blog today comments on the Mannesmann trial that the lawyers should traditionally be wearing white ties, but they aren’t. Here’s an English summary:

bq. Traditionally, a white tie is worn by defence counsel in the courtroom. (Photo of Sven Thomas, Klaus Esser’s lawyer, wearing a yellow tie). A journalist who was in the courtroom confirmed to me that the other lawyers almost without exception are wearing coloured ties. I usually wear a white tie on the first day of the trial if I don’t know how tolerant the court is. Afterwards I wear a coloured tie if I have the feeling that there are any objections – because if there are, it would not be in my client’s interest.

In the comments, there is one by Udo Steger, who reports on his experience as a trainee:

bq. Basic rule: the older the judge(s), the more formal the dress. The higher the court, the more formal the dress.
Amtsgericht (local court): usually doesn’t matter unless it is a pullover and jeans; older judges prefer to see a gown. No trainers.
Landgericht (regional court): dark suit, white/blue shirt, discreet tie, almost all judges insist on the gown. Shoes with leather soles.
Oberlandesgericht (higher regional court and above): Black suit, white shirt, white tie, black shoes with leather sole
Arbeitsgericht (labour court, like industrial tribunal): Slightly, but only slightly, better dressed than the union secretary.

Udo Vetter adds a few details:

bq. The white tie is/was only in criminal matters, Landgericht and above, and at higher courts (Oberlandesgericht, Bundesgerichtshof/Federal Court of Justice).
In civil matters, to say nothing of the Arbeitsgericht, no-one takes any notice.
Gown is mandatory everywhere except at the Amtsgericht.
White tie is OK, but outside court you feel as if you were in fancy dress.

In England, barristers carry their stuff around in a cloth bag with a tin for the wig. You might see them walking from the Law Courts in London to their chambers in court dress, but they will normally remove the party gear before leaving court.

I expect Adrian will tell me how far barristers are obliged to wear black suits, or often black jackets with pinstriped trousers (if male).

Earlier entries about court dress in Germany and England.

Berlusconi mistakenly compared to Attila

Languagehat reports the following correction from the International Herald Tribune, printed in this week’s New Yorker:

bq. Because of a translation error, an article in some editions Thursday misquoted Monica Frassoni, a member of the European Parliament, as comparing Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, to Attila the Hun. Frassoni, who represents a Belgian constituency but who spoke in Italian, said Berlusconi had arrived “alla guida dell’unione.” This was translated as “at the tiller of the union” which was misheard as “Attila.”

It looks as if the original IHT article is an old one, reporting the European Parliament session in July 2003 when Berlusconi implied that a German MEP was a Nazi. So the Thursday in question was Thursday, July 3rd. Presumably it is only the New Yorker report that is recent.

Misquotations of German translators’ association BDÜ in press

I think it’s standard practice for professional associations not to recommend prices, as this is in restraint of trade. I recall the American Translators Association were investigated many years ago by the FTC and have been very cautious since then.

At all events, a newspaper article has been syndicated to various papers all over Germany in which the BDÜ is wrongly stated to have recommended a price per line to charge. I wasn’t going to blog it, but it refuses to die. Here’s one of the articles.

There has also been an article in the fortnightly German computer magazine c’t, about how expensive German versions of software are, because of the costs of localization. That appeared in the 12th January issue and is not online. c’t is an excellent, serious magazine. It has a few past articles translated into English, but I’ve never looked at them. This article referred to a figure of 1 euro per line ‘as quoted by the BDÜ’. I can’t find anyone who knows where the c’t writer got this from.

The former article has been refuted, the latter I’m not sure. Robin Stocks had an entry in Carob (scroll down to 17th January, ‘Odd price data from BDÜ’ – with links). And Richard Schneider’s Nachrichtenportal has even more, on January 14th (in German).

One of the statements credited to Norbert Koschyk of the BDÜ is that almost one in every nine translators is a freelance – of course, it’s about the other way round. He is also wrongly said to have said that an average of 1 euro is earned per line of 55 characters (including spaces!) He did not say this, and he did tell the journalist he spoke to that the BDÜ is not allowed to state prices. Perhaps the figure of 1 euro ‘quoted’ in the c’t article is taken from here.