German Officer of ′Pianist′ Fame Honored in Israel | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.02.2009
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German Officer of 'Pianist' Fame Honored in Israel

Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem has posthumously honored Wilm Hosenfeld, the German officer made famous by the prize-winning film "The Pianist" for his role in helping Jews during World War Two.

Wilm Hosenfeld, a German officer made famous by the film The Pianist

Wilm Hosenfeld during his deployment in Warsaw in the 1940s

Authorities at Yad Vashem said in a statement on Monday they had made the decision to honor Hosenfeld with the title "Righteous Among the Nations" -- people acknowledged for aiding Jews during the Holocaust -- after new documents reinforced the German officer's role during the Nazi era.

US actor Adrien Brody with director Roman Polanski with the French Cesar awards for The Pianist

Actor Adrien Brody, left, with director Roman Polanski with the French Cesar awards for "The Pianist"

Hosenfeld was made famous by Roman Polanski's 2002 film "The Pianist" based on a true story of Jewish-Polish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman. The film, which won top prizes at the Oscars, the French Cesars and the Cannes Film Festival, is based on Szpilman's diaries as well as letters the pianist wrote to Yad Vashem.

The film depicts how Hosenfeld helped hide Szpilman in the ruins of Warsaw in November 1944 and provided the musician with blankets, food and moral support.

New material emerges

Yad Vashem said that in addition to Szpilman, another Jewish survivor, Leon Wurm, had also testified that Hosenfeld helped him after his escape from a concentration camp.

The central Holocaust memorial in Israel said it had waited to honor Hosenfeld until it had been established that the German officer was not involved in war crimes during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Monday's decision came after new material emerged, including Hosenfeld's personal diaries and letters to his wife "which clarify his consistent stance against the Nazi policy toward the Jews," memorial authorities said in a statement.

A view of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in Israel

Yad Vashem documents the fate of Jewish victims and survivors of the Holocaust

"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," the statement said.

Hosenfeld was drafted into the Wehrmacht shortly before the outbreak of World War Two in 1939. He was deployed in Warsaw beginning in July 1940 where he served as a sports and cultural officer. He was involved in interrogating prisoners during the Warsaw Uprising.

After the war Hosenfeld was arrested, tried by the Soviets and sentenced to life imprisonment which was later commuted to 25 years. He died in a Soviet prison in 1952.

His children in Germany will receive the medal and certificate on their late father's behalf, Yad Vashem said.

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