February 16, 2009

German officer who helped ‘The Pianist’ honored as Righteous Among the Nations

Source:

The German officer made famous in Roman Polanski’s 2002 film The Pianist for sheltering two Jews who escaped from the Nazis during the Holocaust has been posthumously recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial said Monday.

Wilm Hosenfeld, a German officer who helped save two Jews during the Holocaust and was honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Wilm Hosenfeld was drafted into the German Army shortly before the outbreak of World War II and was stationed in Poland, where he spent most of the war as a sports and culture officer. During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, he interrogated prisoners.

After the war, Hosenfeld was arrested and tried by the Soviets and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was subsequently commuted to 25 years, but Hosenfeld died in a Soviet prison in 1952.

Over the years, the testimony of two Holocaust survivors was presented to Yad Vashem, detailing how the German officer had provided them with shelter from the Nazis.

Leon Wurm testified that Hosenfeld employed him at the sports center after his escape from the train to Treblinka, while Wladyslaw wrote to Yad Vashem, as well as in his diaries (which became the basis for the film), that in November 1944 Hosenfeld helped him find a hiding place and that he provided blankets, food and moral support.

Yad Vashem had previously considering bestowing the German officer with its highest honor for saving the pair, but waited until it was clear that he was not involved in war crimes during the Warsaw Uprising.

Recently, new material, including Hosenfeld’s personal diaries, and letters to his wife were reviewed by Yad Vashem, which clarify his ”consistent stance” against the Nazi policy toward the Jews, Yad Vashem said.

In his writing, Hosenfeld stressed his growing disgust with the regime’s oppression of Poles, the persecution of Polish clergy, abuse of the Jews, and, with the beginning of the Final Solution, his horror at the extermination of the Jewish people.

Although Hosenfeld supported the Nazi party in its beginnings, it is clear that as he saw the consequences of the Nazis’ rise to power, his opposition to them was deep and consistent, Yad Vashem said.

Hosenfeld’s children, who live in Germany, will receive the medal and certificate on their late father’s behalf.

More than 22,000 non-Jews have been recognized as ”Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem.