“..perhaps that German ..one human being wearing German uniform that I met ..perhaps he got home again.” Wladislaw Szpilman.
Wilhelm Adalbert Hosenfeld was born on May 2nd. 1895 in Huneffeld, Hesse in Germany, a man who crossed paths with the humanity demanded. He became best known to all of Holocaust History as Wilm Hosenfeld, a German Wehrmacht Officer who would ascend above the bile and give hope to Jews severely deprived of it. Eventually though, this particular German officer of Hitler’s Reich, who had even joined the Nazi Party, found out far too late that he had been mistaken. His own moralistic ideals ran counter to the corruption of humanity that Hitler’s hate would propose.
“..History teaches ..tyranny has never endured. ..we have blood guilt ..for ..murdering ..Jewish inhabitants. ..an action ..to exterminate ..Jews ..ever since ..occupation of ..eastern regions.”
Wilm Hosenfeld. In this mix Wilm, a school teacher, became a remarkable figure who clearly sees the treachery in the person of Adolf Hitler. That this corruption would ultimately lead the German people to the doors of an eternal ignominy, is recognise in the terms The Holocaust teaches us. That very refined accustion will be hard to shed for those who acted against all that human civilisation must regularly demand. For Wilm, who joined the Nazi party in 1935, and who was drafted into the Wehrmacht in August 1939, he was not best placed to confront the atrocity to soon unfold. One man who would have reason to speak highly of Wilm recognised that in Hitler’s Germany, there were some who rose above the cesspit of bitterness and hatred.
“..fact is that villains and perpetrators are free ..while a man deserving recognition is suffering.” Leon Warm.
Just prior to the Invasion of Poland, Wilm moved forward to a border demarcation line and crossed with the German Forces on September 1st. 1939 and was stationed in Poland from around September 15th. 1939. With the establishment of a Concentration Camp at Pabiance, which he supervised in the construction of, Wilm became responsible for marshalling those forces containing those POW’s sent there. It would appear that Wilm had aligned his honour to the flag pole of a burgeoning hatred for differences amongst People. This containment role must have assured Wilm that nothing honourable would be afforded to those yet to be interned within the Camp system.
“..We have brought an eternal curse on ourselves and will be forever covered with shame over ..horror at ..extermination of ..Jewish people.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
The evntual recognition of thw wrongs of the Reich were still in their infancy and many, just Wilm were buoyed by that supposed essential of expansionism which was driving War forward. Hitler’s Weltanschauung was always a screen for that one idea above all other’s, the annihilation of the Jewish People. With an acknowlegement of the facts here, we will be made aware that Wilm was accosted by the brutal evidences still to emerge from Pabianice, when 8,500 Jews from the surrounding area were expelled toward this camp during October 1939.
“..we’re Jews in chains ..chained to one spot ..without ..rights ..with a thousand obligations. ..put our feelings aside ..be brave ..strong ..bear discomfort without complaint .. do whatever is in our power ..trust in God. One day this terrible war will be over. ..time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!” Anne Frank.
Wilm was, by now at this time, was fully awakened to the true nature of even Wehrmacht duplicity in the crimes against the Jewish People. It is clear too that other civilian populations were dealt with both harshly and brutally but with a less systematic approach that grew toward eradication and extinction of the Jews. Hosenfeld does acknowledge the tyranny that goes into a devilish inhuman decay that will eventually implode upon itself. He also clearly acknowledged, some say from his reading of Mein Kampf, that Hitler was not the ideologue of the proganda waged in his favour.
“..You wonder why ..Jews don’t defend themselves. ..most ..so weak from starvation ..they couldn’t offer any resistance.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
For Wilm, whose service in Poland centred around guard duties, interrogations of suspects of military interest, establishing areas for the concentration of Polish Jewry, this was not at first as credible as one might expect. All the while Wilm was promoting activities to do with Cultural events and ensuring Sporting outlets were afforded all officers, and this in the midst of the ruination of societal culture. If even society was to search for one decent German it would not however, be looking at any German engaged in any activity within Poland. The cross contamination of efforts ensured that if it was not the deed of the participant in the graduating slaughter, it was indeed a calamitous duplicty.
“..If there were only one decent German ..then he should be cherished despite that whole barbaric gang ..and because of that one decent German it is wrong to pour hatred over an entire people.” Etty Hillesum.
Whether this understanding was from the knowledge to be gained, as all this combined with it a tacit complicty that remained inactive in not confronting the atrocity. Without with some form of human concern or even compassion that such knowledge was apparent made criminals of those who knew and did nothing. From the onset in Poland, intelligence was such that no sooner had Hitler’s plans for the Jews began to emerge, Poland recognised its effects. For Wilm, he became accutely aware of the depreciation in all of humanity that was now to confront him.
“..When ..terrible mass murders of Jews were committed ..so many Women ..Children Slaughtered. ..All ..torturing of Poles ..shooting of prisoners of War and their bestial treatment can never be justified either.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
Even for this particular German Officer, who sees the seismic difference in the treatment of Jews, recognises this is a resolve by Hitler for The Final Solution of the Jewish Question as a deliberately systematic and annihilatory approach. All subsidiary considerations and measures, no matter how bestial they manifest themselves, can ever equate to the intentional annihilation of European Jewry. It is patently obvious that while Wilm was aware of the Death Camp System, acknowledging the presence of Auschwitz, Chelmno, Majdanek and especially Treblinka, there is no reason to suggest Belzec and Sobibor was any secret to have escaped attention.
“..pure myth ..Jews ..merely passive. ..Jews fought back ..to a degree no other community anywhere ..would have been capable of. ..they fought against hunger ..starvation ..disease ..a deadly Nazi economic blockade. They fought against murderers and ..traitors within their own ranks ..and ..were utterly alone in their fight. ..forsaken by God and ..man ..surrounded by hatred or indifference. ..there was much heroism ..little beauty ..much toil ..suffering ..no glamour. We fought back on every front ..biological ..economic ..propaganda ..cultural ..with every weapon ..possessed. In ..end ..ruse ..deception ..cunning beyond anything ..world had ever ..seen ..accomplished what hunger ..disease ..terror ..treachery ..could not. What defeated us ..Jewry’s unconquerable optimism ..eternal faith in ..goodness of man ..even a German ..a Nazi ..could never have ..renounced ..own humanity as to murder women ..’children’ coldly ..systematically. ..when we finally took up arms ..we inscribed in ..book of history epic of ..Ghetto Uprising.” Michal Berg.
That said, we know that Wilm did not operate in a complete vacuum and as such, more than he, within the entire apparatus created maelstrom of Reich activity, more knew of Hitler’s clear intention for a total emphasis upon Jewish destruction. Wilm was in Wegrow during December 1939, barely months after the Wehrmacht had entered the Town and not too long after a formative Einsatz aktionen had Murdered local Jews there. At a later stage, while performing his duties within Warsaw, he became accutely aware of the presence of the Death Camp Treblinka.
“..Humanity seems doomed to do more evil than good. ..greatest ideal on Earth is human love.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
It was more than obvious that this annihilation centre was hugely concerned with the destruction process of those Jews ejected from Warsaw and elsewhere.In Warsaw, a fully complimented Regiment was set up on April 24th. 1940, and it is clear that Wilm, as a Hauptmann of the 660 Guard Battalion that formed a part of the Warsaw Guard Regiment, was duty bound and accepting of his role. This otherwise known as The Wach-Regiment Waschau, was to be etched into crimes bordering upon the inhumanity we have come to recognise in The Holocaust of the Jews of Europe.
“..this is no empty phrase ..despite their power ..we knew ..ultimately we would defeat them ..we ..weak ones ..because in this lay our strength. We believed in justice ..in humanity ..in a regime different from ..one which they glorified.” Zivia Lubetkin.
Wilm though, growing more ashamed of the Reich he assumed to be fighting on behalf of was not in a position to alter the ashamedly atrocious detail. Wilm had a deep seated morality looking far beyond the false sense of ideological pronouncement from Hitler and his rabble. His regiment fully installed in Warsaw, and once he became stationed here, he would remain there till the very end of the War. Wilm was reflective too of what he was possibly aware of from his position as an officer stationed at Tomaszow.
“..reports ..ghetto ..Lublin ..cleared ..Jews ..brought out ..murdered en masse.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
But here too, and so as to oversee guard duties for Military District II, with him as a Staff Officer, he spent the vast majority of his service in Warsaw, the Polish Capitol, hearing and seeing how the Jews were treated. What certainly filtered through from outlying districts could not prevent him from the very truth that catapulted humanity into a deepening abyss. Wilm spent time in Jadow during May 1940 and it is clear too with the mounting and the subsequent Jewish murders across Poland, this all further added to his disillusionment.
“..I feel that I will be able to write much more now because I have come to understand humanity.” Hinde Bergner.
While Jadow was on the transit line from Warsaw to Treblinka it was merely a matter of time before the Jews of Jadow were deliverd to the gates of that hell that is Treblinka. With the establishment of the Tomaszow-Mazowiecki Ghetto on June 1st.1940 the fate of the Jews of Poland was becoming more clear. Here too, at The Majdanek Death Camp, in Lublin itself, Poland, Wilm shares an awareness of the progress toward a final solution that is of the Jewish question. What Wilm Hosenfeld notes well the party functionary’s role in the War effort, tied to a desk, enjoyment of the endeavours of the ordinary German soldier.
“..People from Litzmannstadt (Lodz) and Kutno say ..Jews ..Men ..Women ..Children ..poisoned in mobile gas vehicles ..stripped ..thrown into mass graves. ..emptying ..Warsaw Ghetto ..same way. 400,000 people.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
In particular, for any German Officer to have reached out to save any Jew is a remarkable feat of human conscience, acknowledging too the existence of Auschwitz and its role is formidable, considering the supposed secrecy meant to exist as a cordon around it. The truth of Majdanek too bears no exaggeration while ever more evidences emerge from those who have no wish to bear such responsibility for memory. It is clear though that Wilm Hosenfeld is conflicted by his own morality, fighting an enemy forced upon him, as a German Officer of the Wehrmacht.
“..Why did God endow humanity with ..power to do evil ..as well as ..capacity always to hope to be free.” Helene Berr.
In his dealing with a catastrophe for all humanity, this Jewish evisceration of their very existence, it imposed itself upon his conscience. It is abundantly clear that Wilm had a conscience which was sincerely grounded in the moral efficacy and ethical foundation of his beliefs. At the time, for the detained Jews in Pabiance, at least 8,000 of them, they would eventually wind their way toward Chelmno in 1942 and face total destruction there. The very fact that this becomes evident as it is related to us in many spaces, there are those who still seek to conceal the truth from History. July 25th. 1942
“..30,000 Jews ..to be taken from ..ghetto. ..near Lublin ..buildings constructed . ..1,000’s ..killed ..in a day ..saving ..trouble ..shooting them ..digging mass graves ..filling them in.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
But truth has a way of emerging from all who would obfuscate and lie to prevent the reality of its factual integrity emerging. The sheer devastation enforced upon the Jewish People, 6,000,000 as a conservative estimate must relentlessly seek to so confront us, as it damns us for all eternity, can ensure the truth is always to be told. The human being has much to say about the anomaly of conscience, which is all too often times swayed by the draw of bias and even that hatred of others that can be converted into a genocide.
“..He was a person who helped very many different people from ..beginning of ..war ..regardless of their origin ..their religion or race.” Andrzej Szpilman.
It is when we discern though, taken from the narrative of testimony and personal affadavit, what should truly matter to the integrity in history. Truly, that we can unpick from this detail the very truth to matter to all of History speaks for the science of a history that must be integral to truth. We can know from so many, who afford this period of history an insight into what a Man, any Man, Woman or Child is capable of achieving. When Wladislaw Szpilman’s Son affords us testimony, it confirms the goodness that was present within Wilm which affords Andrzej an existence that can deliver a voice to memory.
“..sent to Auschwitz. .drive ..unfortunates into a cell ..gassing them.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
Back in time, with one of those duties that had been for Wilm a period spent in Jadow, we know that for more than 1,000 of these Jadow Jews, who arrived at the gates of Treblinka on Sepember 21st. 1942, certainty cannot exclude Wilm from knowing the fact of this resettlement. Perhaps too, Wilm might have been much too well aware that some 10,500 Jews from Wegrow had been sent to Treblinka for resettlement on this very same day also. Here, Wilm would have been better placed to know of such a detailed fact than he would be in affording us his testimony of what Auschwitz meant for the Jewish People.
“..last information about Hosenfeld came from Brest. It was said that he was to be released ..but then he was accused of alleged crimes against humanity.” Leon Warm.
For his disappearance from history, it might suggest that Russia too had much to conceal and wished to focus all attention upon Hitler, Nazism, The Holocaust instead of what History now considers Stalin’s own act of genocide. It is more clear from all of the history of the period that far too much has been ommitted so as to cover evidences and truths. For far more than was carefully considered, as a knowledge of actual events, opposig efforts to convey and distract from the verifiable certainty of what both Hitler managed and what the World sought to ignore, testifies to an indifference beyond human civilisation.
“..Who faces ..enemy. ..people ..not ..party. ..They seize ..Jewish property to enjoy it themselves.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
The Holocaust is so riven with actual facts, testimonial truths and evidences beyond compare, that all too many have sought to now diminish that integrity. What they have sought above all else, and it is a clear attempt to keep hold of ill gotten gains and to distort the very veracity of that truth which exposes them. For what history must scientifically acknowledge, and in their redeeming of a Hitler whose so disgruntled view of life has mocked every fibre of human civilisation, they seek to even lie about that for a hate filled failed ideology of Hitlerite atrocity.
“..As a child of ..Jewish people who ..by ..grace of God ..for ..past 11 years has also been a child of ..Catholic Church ..I dare to speak to ..Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions. ..deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity ..not to mention love of neighbour. For years ..leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of ..Jews.” Edith Stein.
That Wilm managed to save Polish Jews who were deliberately detained within the Warsaw Ghetto is a stellar achievement of compassion and humanity. What is recogniseable though is that nothing could save a Jew from the hate filled fate Hitler proposed for them, no matter conversion, identity or their close acquaintance to another faith. Here too , it is true that der Einsatzgruppe operated within the confines of their own command structure. However, there were logistical concerns marrying them to the fuller efforts of the Reich and the efforts of local residents.
“..A Special Kommando Unit officer told me about ..dreadful things ..unit has done in ..Sielce. ..Jews were driven out of ..Ghetto ..Men ..Women ..Children. A number of them ..shot publicly. ..Women ..writhing in their blood. ..Children ..thrown out of ..windows. ..all these 1,000’s ..taken to a place near ..railway station ..trains ..to take them away. ..Nobody will admit to knowing ..it cannot be concealed. ..place is ..Treblinka. ..A dreadful stench of corpses hangs over ..whole of Treblinka area.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
For these non-Jews, keen to ensure their own Jewish community was disbanded, broken up, robbed, brutalised and then murdered, this was all done in a faith that did not admonish them. In particular, legions of church goers would observe every detail of the iniquitous destruction of a People they had stood alongside, but railed against them while there was a profit to be made. Seeing the Reich as a champion of what they had long wished for, they indulged their irreverant behaviour to promote the sins of an eternal damnation.
“..I come back richer in humanity and love of others. ..one has to struggle to change ..world .to struggle relentlessly.” Eva Tichauer.
Along with the fullest compliment of the Wehrmacht ensuring every detail of der Einsatzgruppe’s operational needs were met, the intertwined relationship grew as deadly to the Jews as it was a function of close cooperation. That said, these Einsatz Sonderkommando did not operate totally outside their own boundaries and even shared recreational facilities, regularly afforded all members of the Reich, at War. They clearly mingled daily with the communities they infested and clearly, what Wilm recognised, was the escalating terms of a slaughter he had long since witnessed in his early days in Poland and sought to ameliorate in some way, form or other.
“..When ..terrible mass murder of Jews were committed ..I knew ..we would lose ..war.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
For this fact alone Wilm Hosenfeld is recognised as a Righteous Amongst the Nations, an honour posthumously delivered for saving Jewish People from harm. Amongst others of these was the Polish Jewish Pianist, Wladislaw Szpilman, a fact related to history by Szpilman himself. In the House at 223 Niepodleglosci Avenue, Warsaw, Poland, Wilm became the saviour of a World Entire in Wladyslaw Szpilman. Wladislaw Szpilman, who somehow had been surviving in the ruins of the Warsaw Capitol, did not know if his Family had survived or not.
“..Justice for crimes against humanity must have no limitations.” Simon Wiesenthal.
For Wilm, he too was present here in Warsaw as the Russians moved relentlessly forward, and toward a full scale retribution of Germans and Germany during these final months of 1944. On January 17th. 1945, with the viability of Regimental Staff destroyed, Wilm surrendered to Russian forces near Blonie just outside Warsaw. While attempting to lead his Company to safety, he must have realised they would be exposed to the full anger of a Russian Army, so long beleagured, seeking to repay the awful crimes perpetrated upon their own People and upon Russian soil.
“..policy in ..east is bankrupt ..we are erecting a final memorial to it with ..destruction of Warsaw.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
Of course, the impediment to any justification of a just War, with a god on any side had made Wilm conscious of the debt to be ascribed to all of Germany and those Germans still left alive inside of it. At the end of the War Wilm was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor for war crimes allegedly affixed to the activities of his Guard Unit. In a 1946 letter to his wife in West Germany, Hosenfeld named the Jews whom he had saved and begged her to contact them and ask them to arrange his release. It was only in 1950 that Wladyslaw Szpilman discovered the name of the Man who had afforded him kindness, assistance and even life itself.
“..I am in Warsaw ..I am here. ..hard to grasp who I actually am. But it is actually here that I understand and know everything most precisely.” Halina Birenbaum.
Wilm Hosenfeld died on August 13th. 1952, possibly within a detention centre somewhere near to Brest, or Stalingrad, or somewhere in Russia where he is discreetly damned to death. He was only 57 years of age and it cannot be imagined if he ever figured he had been sought for the Rigteous detail of his approach to saving a Jew. That he saved some Jews, for being the humanitarian not bounded by racial theory or hate filled ignominious hatreds sets him apart from the many in Poland and Europe who watched on vigorously as 6,000,000 Jews were led toward extinction.
“..Many innocent people must be sacrificed before ..blood guilt we’ve incurred can be wiped out.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
There are many willing to talk well of Wilm, including Andrzej Szpilman and we recognise clearly that newer life is owed to those who saved his Father Wladislaw’s life. As a consequence of Wilm’s intervention, Wladislaw Szpilman was prevented from adorning all of history as one more Jew of the Catastrophe. Tragically, Wladyslaw Szpilman died on July 6th. 2000 and while his legacy in Music is already assessed and certain, his ability to intervene on behalf of Wilm Hosenfeld was not as he would have wished.
“.. Not all victims were Jewish in this place but all Jews were victims.” Elie Wiesel.
This Music accreditation is also as a somewhat honorary example of what Wilm Hosenfeld stood for in civilising, humanitarian and righteous terms for saving just this one life. In October 2007, Wilm Hosenfeld was honoured with a Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, a recognition of what so few within Poland managed to achieve and this was bestowed upon Wilm by the president of Poland Lech Kaczynski. It remains a scandal that Poland still issues threats against all of history for being confronted with a certain truth, that while not all victims were Jews, All Jews Were Victims.
“..We are so willing to blame others instead of ourselves.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
That said, it is clear that not all who did not act are guilty but nor are all who did act in any way innocent. On November 25th. 2008, Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of The Holocaust, posthumously recognized Wilhelm Adalbert Hosenfeld as a Righteous Among the Nations. On June 19th. 2009, Israeli diplomats presented Wilm’s Son, Detlev Hosenfeld, with the award in Berlin and in the presence of Wladislaw’s Szpilman’s Son, Andrzej. Wilm Hosenfeld joins the ranks of so few German Army Officers, and too few People, to be recognised by receiving such an auspicious award.
“..On ..site where for 400 ghastly days ..blasphemy of Treblinka tormented human history there is now a monument. It shows in ..centre an enormous rock topped by a menorah to symbolise ..300,000 martyred Jews of Warsaw. ..rock is surrounded by huge slabs of concrete from which rises a forest of 1,000’s of granite pillars of varying shapes and sizes ..representing cities ..villages ..and shtetlach los in ..Holocaust. On 150 of them are carved ..names of ..localities from which ..murdered Jews came. ..massive pillars bear ..names of ..Country’s of ..victims origin.” Alexander Donat.
By a very long mile, this is Israel’s highest honour for those who moved with any sense of humanity to save any one of the Jews during The Holocaust period. Also, we must realise that in the term itself, The Righteous Among the Nations, it is not just an honour to the recipient, it is as a reminder to those in the Country’s servicing Hitler’s Final Solution of The Jewish Question who did not act. For that detailed lack of compassion, morality or an ethical response, such inaction speaks more loudly of the inhumanity suppressed in our understanding of all humanity.
“..injustice cannot prevail ..way ..Germans rule ..is bound to lead to resistance sooner or later. ..I ..look at conditions ..in Poland. ..we ..form a clear picture. ..it is ..same in ..other conquered countries.” Wilm Hosenfeld.
On December 4th. 2011, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the place where Wilm Hosenfeld discovered Wladislaw Szpilmand hiding. At 223 Niepodleglosci Avenue, Warsaw, Poland and here, where Wilm Hosenfeld’s daughter Jorinde was a guest of honour, Israel’s Deputy Ambassador Ilan Mor paid tribute. Here the World must recognise what is a terrible indictment of all those, both nations and citizens of nations who resisted all efforts to save at least another life. It is abundantly clear that even if that effort was in response to any Jew under direct threat, all too many had considered the Jewish People, in line with Hitler’s hatred, were not worthy of life.
“..rescuer of Jewish life who we honour today through his courageous act showed that there were people in uniform ..even under a dictatorship and under terror ..who stood up for humanity and compassion.” Ilan Mor.
It should not only be for a Jew to recognise the effort of a non-Jew in saving a member of the Jewish People from destruction. Who are we if we are not capable of seeing the humanity which exists for all People to be ensured. Finally, and there is evidence which points to Wilm further risking his own life to save another Jew, Leon Warm. Wilm is recalled by Leon, for whom he provided, afforded and gave shelter and assistance, he also supplied Leon with falsified documentation. From testimony it is clear that Leon remained protected by Wilm until the end of the war and adds justification to our memory of Wilm Hosenfeld as a righteous amongst all nations.
“..There was ..no point in a war that might once have been justified as a search for free subsistence and living space ..had degenerated into vast ..inhuman mass slaughter ..and ..can never be justified to ..German people.” Wilm Hosenfeld.