Wilm Hosenfeld: A Good German

Wilm Hosenfeld was born Wilhelm Adalbert Hosenfeld on May 2,1895 in Mackenzell, Hesse, Germany to a devout Catholic family. His father was a devoutly religious Catholic schoolmaster. His family life had a staunch Catholic character and Christian charitable work was emphasized during his education. He was a devout Catholic his entire life, inspired by the Catholic Action and Church-inspired social work. He was also inspired by Prussian obedience, German patriotism, and the Wandervogel movement. When World War I broke out in 1914, he served in the German Army. In 1917, he was severely wounded and received the Iron Cross Second Class. He returned home in 1917 and became a teacher in 1918. On May 23,1920, he married Annemarie Krummacher, a German Protestant and daughter of artist Karl Krummacher. The marriage was a happy one and together they had 5 children. Like many patriotic Germans, he was upset of how Germany was treated after World War I with a humiliating defeat and the Treaty of Versailles. On October 24,1929, the Stock Market on Wall Street in New York City crashed and brought about the Great Depression which affected almost every country including Germany. It was chaos in Germany during the period of 1929 to 1933, there was battles between the Communists and the Nazis. The Nazi Party was led by a World War I corporal named Adolf Hitler, who was determined to be leader of Germany, Der Führer. In the 1930 and 1932 Reichstag elections, the Nazis won overwhelmingly and became the largest political force in Germany and the President of the Reichstag was World War I fighter hero, Hermann Göring. On January 30,1933, President of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg, a decorated hero of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and World War I (1914-1918), appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. In a way many Germans felt Hitler would make Germany strong again as did Hosenfeld. Hosenfeld joined the Sturmabteilung (SA) on April 15,1933. What Hosenfeld and many patriotic Germans did not know was that Hitler was a maniac who wanted to wage war. He joined the National Socialist Teachers’ League on August 25,1933 and on August 1,1935, he joined the Nazi Party. At first he was an enthusiastic supporter of National Socialism and even participated at the 1936 Nuremberg Rally. However, as a devout Catholic and also due to his wife’s pacifist views, he became disillusioned especially with anti-Christian Nazi propagandist Alfred Rosenberg’s anti-Christian book, “The Myth of the 20th Century”. As a devout Catholic, he spoke up against the Nazi’s anti-Christian policies and came into conflict with the Nazi Party. Although, he welcomed the Anschluss and the Munich Agreement in 1938, he was appalled by the Nazi’s hostility towards Christianity and the Kristillnacht pogrom of November 9,1938 against Germany’s Jewish population. On August 26,1939, at age 44, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and stationed in Poland from mid-September 1939 until his capture by the Soviet Army on January 17,1945. He was appalled by the persecution of Polish Catholic clergy, Polish civilians, and the persecution of Polish Jews. As a devout Catholic, he attended Mass, received Holy Communion, and went to confession if Polish Catholic parishes, even though this was forbidden by the Nazi Party. He and many of fellow German Army officers felt sympathy for all peoples of occupied Poland. Ashamed of what their fellow Germans were doing, they offered help to those they could whenever possible. Hosenfeld befriended many Poles and even made an effort to learn their language. He helped and assisted many Poles and Jews from Nazi persecution. He even helped Władysław Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist survive the last days of World War II by finding a better place to hide and brought him bread and jam on numerous occasions. He even gave Szpilman, one of his own coats to keep warm. On January 17,1945, Captain Hosenfeld surrendered to the Soviets at Błonie, a small Polish city about 30 km west of Warsaw, with the men of a Wehrmacht company he was leading. He was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor for fake crimes, simply on account of his unit affiliation, and was tortured by the Soviet secret services, as they believed Hosenfeld had been active in the German Abwehr or even the Sicherheitsdienst. In 1946, Hosenfeld’s wife, Annemaire received a letter from her husband and named the Jews whom he saved and begged her to contact them and ask them to arrange his release. In 1950, Władysław Szpilman, found out about Captain Hosenfeld who saved him during the last days of the and sought the assistance of Jakub Berman, the head of the head of Polish secret police for Communist occupied Poland. Władysław Szpilman regarded Berman as “a bastard”. Berman later visited Władysław Szpilman and said there was nothing he could do. Władysław Szpilman believed Berman lied and in an interview with Wolf Biermann, Szpilman described Jakub Berman as “all powerful by the grace of Stalin,” and lamented, “So I approached the worst rogue of the lot, and it did no good.” On August 13,1952, Captain Hosenfeld died in Soviet captivity, from a rupture of the thoracic aorta, possibly sustained during torture. In 2007, he received Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by Poland and on June 19,2009, he named a “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem.

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