GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Shortlist: Defying the Nazis: The Life of German Officer Wilm Hosenfeld by Hermann Vinke (Germany)

Initially an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler, Wilm Hosenfeld became aware of the Third Reich’s relentless brutality against the Poles and Jews when he was stationed in Poland. Witnessing the Nazis’ inhumanity changed Hosenfeld from an enemy occupier to a rescuer. Hosenfeld’s heroic efforts to save Polish citizens was mostly unknown until a scene in the Oscar-winning film The Pianist brought to the public’s attention a man whose compassion saved more than 60 people. Defying the Nazis is the first English biography of Wilm Hosenfeld.

Hermann Vinke is a journalist who has worked at various newspapers and as a correspondent covering Tokyo, the Baltic States, and Washington D.C. An award-winning non-fiction author, Vinke offers readers an absorbing look at the people who bravely resisted Naziism.


“The first biography in English of a conflicted, quietly heroic German officer stationed in Warsaw during World War II who saved dozens of people from the Nazis. Wilm Hosenfeld kept a journal and wrote copious letters home both during the war years and, later, as a Soviet prisoner of war. These became the foundation for this young readers edition, translated from the German, of a work for adults. Through excerpts of his writing, readers gain an appreciation of Hosenfeld’s opinions of German conduct in Warsaw. Avoiding any whitewashing, Hosenfeld is shown in all his nationalistic fervor but also as a decent man who had a basic respect for all his fellow beings and one increasingly appalled by Nazi policies; the occupation “has degenerated into excessive, inhuman, mass slaughter contrary to the ideals of a cultured nation . . . the inhuman treatment can never be justified,” he wrote. What we couldn’t put in his journal was the aid he rendered to dozens of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of Nazi tyranny, most famously Wladyslaw Szpilman, subject of the movie The Pianist. In 2009, Hosenfeld was named one of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. Solid writing and photographs throughout bring the story of this complex individual to life.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A fine addition to biography, Holocaust, and World War II collections that serve teens.” – School Library Journal

Defying the Nazis: The Life of German Officer Wilm Hosenfeld
Hermann Vinke
Translated from the German by H.B. Babiar
2018, Star Bright Books
ISBN: 1595727590

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