Israel honors German officer from "The Pianist"

Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:16pm EST
 
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Holocaust memorial said on Monday it was honoring a German officer whose rescue of a Polish Jewish musician is documented by Roman Polanski's 2002 Hollywood film "The Pianist."

The late Captain Wilm Hosenfeld is one of the few German World War Two soldiers to win the title of "Righteous among the Nations," among some 22,000 people honored for helping Jews avoid death in the Nazi Holocaust, in which 6 million perished.

In a statement, the Yad Vashem museum said it had decided to honor Hosenfeld, played in the movie by the German-born actor Thomas Kretschmann, after verifying that he had no hand in war crimes despite a military role in the occupation of Warsaw.

Hosenfeld, stationed in the Nazi-occupied Polish capital from 1940 to 1944, served mostly as a sports and culture officer, though he had some involvement in interrogations, the museum said.

Hosenfeld helped to shelter and feed the pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who wrote about officer's kindness in his diary after escaping the Warsaw Ghetto, where he had been incarcerated as a Jew.

The diary of another Holocaust survivor said Hosenfeld had given him work after he escaped from a train en route to the Treblinka death camp, where most ghetto residents were sent, Yad Vashem said.

Hosenfeld was captured by the Red Army near the end of the war and perished in a Soviet prison in 1952.

Diaries and letters showed he had expressed his "horror at the extermination of the Jewish people" by the country that he served, Yad Vashem said.

His offspring in Germany will receive a certificate and a medal to document the honor.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Kevin Liffey)