In late 1950, Szpilman learned the name of the Wehrmacht officer who had helped him and heard of Hosenfeld’s fate at the hands of the Soviet Army.
Fighting his “distaste” of Jakub Berman, then the head of the Polish branch of the Communist secret police known as NKWD (also known as NKVD and predecessor of the KGB), Wladyslaw interceded for Wilm. But since the German was in Russia, not Poland, there was nothing Berman could do.
Suffering several cerebral strokes, Wilm died in 1952 in the Stalingrad prisoner of war camp. He was 57 years old, a man broken by the horror he had seen. The fact that his sentence had been commuted to life in prison no longer mattered.
During the war, Hosenfeld kept a diary (the link takes you to the original entry for 17 April 1942) which contained very critical comments about Hitler and the Third Reich. As the war neared its end, the officer sent his notebooks home by ordinary Army post. One can only imagine what would have happened to him had those diaries fallen into the wrong hands.
When he first realized what the Nazis were doing to the Jewish people, the Wehrmacht officer condemned it. He had been sent to Poland as early as 1940. By 1943, he predicted that his country would lose the war.
By the summer of 1943, Hosenfeld spreads the blame for what the Nazis were doing. (Scroll down 25% for the moving maps; then click “start” to begin the animation.)
When the Nazis came to power we did nothing to stop them; we betrayed our own ideals. Ideals of personal, democratic and religious freedom.
The workers went along with the Nazis, the Church stood by and watched, the middle classes were too cowardly to do anything, and so were the leading intellectuals.
We allowed the unions to be abolished, the various religious denominations to be suppressed, there was no freedom of speech in the press or on the radio.
Finally we let ourselves be driven into war. We were content for Germany to do without democratic representation and put up with pseudo-representation by people with no real say in anything.
Ideals can’t be betrayed with impunity, and now we must all take the consequences. (6 July 1943, quoted in The Pianist, page 205.)
The consequences of Hosenfeld's imprisonment and death were especially hard on his wife. Waiting seven years for her husband to return, she never saw him again.
Wilm's family didn't even receive notice of his death. They found out what had happened three months later from released German POWs.
Mrs. Hosenfeld developed cancer in 1961. Though she struggled, she could not overcome either the grief for her husband or her illness. She died in 1971.
Wilm's children (follow the link to see him with his daughters Uta, at age 7, and Jorinde, at age 12) were, of course, anxious about his well-being. Detlev, who last saw his father in February of 1944 - and was in his 70s (in 2003) - recalls:
Our early lives were shadowed by the fate of our father.