Birthday: May 2, 1895
Died At Age: 57
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Wilhelm Adalbert Hosenfeld
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Mackenzell, Prussia, German Empire
Famous as: Army Officer
Spouse/Ex-: Annemarie Krummacher (m. 1920)
children: Detlev Hosenfeld, Jorinde Krejci-Hosenfeld
Died on: August 13, 1952
place of death: Stalingrad, Soviet Union
awards: Righteous Among the Nations
Who was Wilm Hosenfeld?
Wilm Hosenfeld was a German Army officer who served as a captain (Hauptmann) during the Second World War. He helped to hide or rescue several Polish people as well as Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. Though he had joined the Nazi Party in 1935, Hosenfeld soon grew disillusioned with the regime. He also found the Nazi crimes against the Poles and Jews unbearable. He had been stationed in Poland from the beginning of the war until the Soviets captured Warsaw. When he was confronted with the crimes committed against the Polish and German Jews by his own people, he was filled with shame and guilt. This led him to help a number of Jews and Poles survive and escape. He was posthumously awarded with a Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński in 2007. He was also recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
During the initial years of his professional life, Wilm Hosenfeld was a teacher. He was known to be employed at a village school in Pessart. However, as he was an advocate of progressive and less authoritative didactic views, he often got into trouble with his colleagues and the school administration.
He was eventually attracted to the ideologies of national socialism. What he liked the most was the idea of forming a people's community. He became a member of SA (Sturmabteilung) in 1933, and later in 1935, he joined N.S.D.A.P., which stood for National Socialist Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (or National Socialist German Workers Party).
When Germany attacked Poland in 1939, Hosenfeld was drafted into the Wehrmacht as a Feldwebel (sergeant). Between September 1939 and January 1945, he was stationed in Poland. Initially, he was involved in setting up a camp for the prisoners of war of the Polish army. In 1941, he was promoted to Oberleutnant as well as named sports officer of the Kommandatur in Warsaw. He was made responsible for the sports education of the German forces.
With time, he was shocked and disappointed by the bad treatment of the Poles and Jews by his fellow Germans. He also felt sympathy for the Polish population and decided to stand up for them. He helped some of the victims survive and escape. He helped Leon Warm survive by employing him in the sports stadium with a false identity. He also helped a Jewish man named Wladyslaw Szpilman.
In January 1945, he was captured by the Soviets. For his alleged war crimes, he received a sentence of 25 years in prison. In 1950, when Szpilman learnt about Hosenfeld’s imprisonment, he tried to help him and contacted Jakub Berman, the head of the Polish secret police. However, Berman told him that as he was with the Soviets, there was nothing he could do.
Hosenfeld died in a Soviet prison camp on 13th August 1952, probably due to injuries sustained during torture.
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Family & Personal Life
Wilm Hosenfeld was born on 2nd May 1895, in Mackenzell, in the German Empire, to a Roman Catholic family. He married Annemarie Krummacher in 1920. She came from a liberal Protestant family.
Wilm Hosenfeld’s character appeared in the 2002 film ‘The Pianist’, where his rescue of Szpilman was shown.