February 16, 2009

German Officer Made Famous in ‘The Pianist’ Named as Righteous


Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) — Wilm Hosenfeld, the German officer whose assistance to Wladyslaw Szpilman in the movie ”The Pianist” made him famous, has been posthumously recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for risking his life to save Jews during World War II.

Hosenfeld was named by the committee set up by Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem after Szpilman wrote to Yad Vashem to say that the Wermacht officer stationed in Poland helped him find a hiding place and provided him with food, blankets and moral support in November 1944.

The pianist also mentioned Hosenfeld in his diaries, which later became the basis for Roman Polanski’s film ”The Pianist,” the museum said in an e-mailed statement.

The title, Righteous Among Nations, is awarded by a special commission headed by a Supreme Court justice based on a well- defined set of criteria and regulations, according to the Yad Vashem Web site.

About 6 million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War II in a systematic Nazi campaign across Europe that included random executions, plunder and death camps.

Hosenfeld, who was arrested and tried by the Soviets after the war, died in Soviet prison in 1952. He was also named as a rescuer by Holocaust survivor Leon Wurm, who said Hosenfeld employed him at a sports center he was in charge of.

The committee decided on Hosenfeld’s title after it was given his diaries and as letters to his wife showed he consistently opposed the Nazi policy toward the Jews, Yad Vashem said.

Hosenfeld’s children, who live in Germany, will receive a medal and certificate on their father’s behalf, Yad Vashem said, adding that no date has been set yet for the official ceremony.

To contact the writer on the story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net