The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

by Wladyslaw Szpilman

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Named one of the Best Books of 1999 by the Los Angeles Times, The Pianist is now a major motion picture directed by Roman Polanski and starring Adrien Brody (Son of Sam). The Pianist won the Cannes Film Festival's most prestigious prize—the Palme d'Or.

On September 23, 1939, Wladyslaw Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor live on the radio as shells exploded outside—so loudly that he couldn't hear his piano. It was the last live music broadcast from Warsaw: That day, a German bomb hit the station, and Polish Radio went off the air.

Though he lost his entire family, Szpilman survived in hiding. In the end, his life was saved by a German officer who heard him play the same Chopin Nocturne on a piano found among the rubble. Written immediately after the war and suppressed for decades, The Pianist is a stunning testament to human endurance and the redemptive power of fellow feeling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466837621
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 09/02/2000
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 34,344
File size: 913 KB

About the Author

Wladyslaw Szpilman was born in 1911. He studied the piano at the Warsaw Conservatory and at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. From 1945 to 1963, he was Director of Music at Polish Radio, and he also pursued a career as a concert pianist and composer for many years. He lives in Warsaw

Wladyslaw Szpilman was born in 1911. He studied the piano at the Warsaw Conservatory and at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. From 1945 to 1963, he was Director of Music at Polish Radio, and he also pursued a career as a concert pianist and composer for many years. He died in Warsaw in 2000. The film version of his memoir, The Pianist, was the winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Hour of the Children and the Mad

* * *

I began my wartime career as a pianist in the Café Nowoczesna, which was in Nowolipki Street in the very heart of the Warsaw ghetto. By the time the gates of the ghetto closed in November 1940, my family had sold everything we could sell long ago, even our most precious household possession, the piano. Life, although so unimportant, had none the less forced me to overcome my apathy and seek some way of earning a living, and I had found one, thank God. The work left me little time for brooding, and my awareness that the whole family depended on what I could earn gradually helped me to overcome my previous state of hopelessness and despair.

    My working day began in the afternoon. To get to the café I had to make my way through a labyrinth of narrow alleys leading far into the ghetto, or for a change, if I felt like watching the exciting activities of the smugglers, I could skirt the wall instead.

    The afternoon was best for smuggling. The police, exhausted by a morning spent lining their own pockets, were less alert then, busy counting up their profits. Restless figures appeared in the windows and doorways of the blocks of flats along the wall and then ducked into hiding again, waiting impatiently for the rattle of a cart or the clatter of an approaching tram. At intervals the noise on the other side of the wall would grow louder, and as a horse-drawn cart trotted past the agreed signal, a whistle, would be heard, and bags and packets flew over the wall. The peoplelying in wait would run out of the doorways, hastily snatch up the loot, retreat indoors again, and a deceptive silence, full of expectation, nervousness and secret whispering would fall over the street once more, for minutes on end. On days when the police went about their daily work more energetically you would hear the echo of shots mingling with the sound of cartwheels, and hand grenades would come over the wall instead of bags, exploding with a loud report and making the plaster crumble from the buildings.

    The ghetto walls did not come right down to the road all along its length. At certain intervals there were long openings at ground level through which water flowed from the Aryan parts of the road into gutters beside the Jewish pavements. Children used these openings for smuggling. You could see small black figures hurrying towards them from all sides on little matchstick legs, their frightened eyes glancing surreptitiously to left and right. Then small black paws hauled consignments of goods through the openings — consignments that were often larger than the smugglers themselves.

    Once the smuggled goods were through the children would sling them over their shoulders, stooping and staggering under the burden, veins standing out blue at their temples with the effort, mouths wide open and gasping painfully for air, as they scurried off in all directions like scared little rats.

    Their work was just as risky and entailed the same danger to life and limb as that of the adult smugglers. One day when I was walking along beside the wall I saw a childish smuggling operation that seemed to have reached a successful conclusion. The Jewish child still on the far side of the wall only needed to follow his goods back through the opening. His skinny little figure was already partly in view when he suddenly began screaming, and at the same time I heard the hoarse bellowing of a German on the other side of the wall. I ran to the child to help him squeeze through as quickly as possible, but in defiance of our efforts his hips stuck in the drain. I pulled at his little arms with all my might, while his screams became increasingly desperate, and I could hear the heavy blows struck by the policeman on the other side of the wall. When I finally managed to pull the child through, he died. His spine had been shattered.

    In fact the ghetto did not depend on smuggling to feed itself. Most of the sacks and packages smuggled over the wall contained donations from Poles for the very poorest of the Jews. The real, regular smuggling trade was run by such magnates as Kon and Heller; it was an easier operation, and quite safe. Bribed police guards simply turned a blind eye at agreed times, and then whole columns of carts would drive through the ghetto gate right under their noses and with their tacit agreement, carrying food, expensive liquor, the most luxurious of delicacies, tobacco straight from Greece, French fancy goods and cosmetics.

    I had a good view of these smuggled goods daily in the Nowoczesna. The café was frequented by the rich, who went there hung about with gold jewellery and dripping with diamonds. To the sound of popping champagne corks, tarts with gaudy make-up offered their services to war profiteers seated at laden tables. I lost two illusions here: my beliefs in our general solidarity and in the musicality of the Jews.

    No beggars were allowed outside the Nowoczesna. Fat doormen drove them away with cudgels. Rickshaws often came long distances, and the men and women who lounged in them wore expensive wool in winter, costly straw hats and French silks in summer. Before they reached the zone protected by the porters' cudgels they warded off the crowd with sticks themselves, their faces distorted with anger. They gave no alms; in their view charity simply demoralized people. If you worked as hard as they did then you would earn as much too: it was open to everyone to do so, and if you didn't know how to get on in life that was your own fault.

    Once they were finally sitting at the little tables in the roomy café, which they visited only on business, they began complaining of the hard times and the lack of solidarity shown by American Jews. What did they think they were doing? People here were dying, hadn't a bite to eat. The most appalling things were happening, but the American press said nothing, and Jewish bankers on the other side of the pond did nothing to make America declare war on Germany, although they could easily have advised such a course of action if they'd wanted to.

    No one paid any attention to my music in the Nowoczesna. The louder I played, the louder the company eating and drinking talked, and every day my audience and I competed to see which of us could drown out the other. On one occasion a guest even sent a waiter over to tell me to stop playing for a few moments, because the music made it impossible for him to test the gold twenty-dollar coins he had just acquired from a fellow guest. Then he knocked the coins gently on the marble surface of the table, picked them up in his fingertips, raised them to his ear and listened hard to their ring — the only music in which he took any interest. I didn't play there for long. Mercifully, I got another job in a very different kind of café in Sienna Street, where the Jewish intelligentsia came to hear me play. It was here that I established my artistic reputation and made friends with whom I was to pass some pleasant but also some terrible times later. Among the regulars at the café was the painter Roman Kramsztyk, a highly gifted artist and a friend of Artur Rubinstein and Karol Szymanowski. He was working on a magnificent cycle of drawings depicting life inside the ghetto walls, not knowing that he would be murdered and most of the drawings lost.

    Another guest at the Sienna Street café was one of the finest people I have ever met, Janusz Korczak. He was a man of letters who knew almost all the leading artists of the Young Poland movement. He talked about them in a fascinating way; his account was both straightforward and gripping. He was not regarded as one of the very first rank of writers, perhaps because his achievements in the field of literature had a very special character: they were stories for and about children, and notable for their great understanding of the child's mind. They were written not out of artistic ambition but straight from the heart of a born activist and educationalist. Korczak's true value was not in what he wrote but in the fact that he lived as he wrote. Years ago, at the start of his career, he had devoted every minute of his free time and every zloty he had available to the cause of children, and he was to be devoted to them until his death. He founded orphanages, organized all kinds of collections for poor children and gave talks on the radio, winning himself wide popularity (and not just among children) as the 'Old Doctor'. When the ghetto gates closed he came inside them, although he could have saved himself, and he continued his mission within the walls as adoptive father to a dozen Jewish orphans, the poorest and most abandoned children in the world. When we talked to him in Sienna Street we did not know how finely or with what radiant passion his life would end.

    After four months I moved on to another café, the Sztuka (Art), in Leszno Street. It was the biggest café in the ghetto, and had artistic aspirations. Musical performances were held in its concert room. The singers there included Maria Eisenstadt, who would have been a famous name to millions now for her wonderful voice if the Germans had not later murdered her. I appeared here myself playing piano duets with Andrzej Goldfeder, and had a great success with my paraphrase of the Casanova Waltz by Ludomir Rózycki, to words by Wladyslaw Szlengel. The poet Szlengel appeared daily with Leonid Fokczanski, the singer Andrzej Wlast, the popular comedian 'Wacus the Art-lover' and Pola Braunówna in the 'Live Newspaper' show, a witty chronicle of ghetto life full of sharp, risqué allusions to the Germans. Besides the concert room there was a bar where those who liked food and drink better than the arts could get fine wines and deliciously prepared cotelettes de volaille or boeuf Stroganoff. Both the concert room and the bar were nearly always full, so I earned well at this time and could just meet the needs of our family of six, although with some difficulty.

    I would really have enjoyed playing in the Sztuka, since I met a great many friends there and could talk to them between performances, if it hadn't been for the thought of my return home in the evening. It cast a shadow over me all afternoon.

    This was the winter of 1941 to 1942, a very hard winter in the ghetto. A sea of Jewish misery washed around the small islands of relative prosperity represented by the Jewish intelligentsia and the luxurious life of the speculators. The poor were already severely debilitated by hunger and had no protection from the cold, since they could not possibly afford fuel. They were also infested with vermin. The ghetto swarmed with vermin, and nothing could be done about it. The clothing of people you passed in the street was infested by lice, and so were the interiors of trams and shops. Lice crawled over the pavements, up stairways, and dropped from the ceilings of the public offices that had to be visited on so many different kinds of business. Lice found their way into the folds of your newspaper, into your small change; there were even lice on the crust of the loaf you had just bought. And each of these verminous creatures could carry typhus.

    An epidemic broke out in the ghetto. The mortality figures for death from typhus were five thousand people every month. The chief subject of conversation among both rich and poor was typhus; the poor simply wondered when they would die of it, while the rich wondered how to get hold of Dr Weigel's vaccine and protect themselves. Dr Weigel, an outstanding bacteriologist, became the most popular figure after Hitler: good beside evil, so to speak. People said the Germans had arrested the doctor in Lemberg, but thank God had not murdered him, and indeed they almost recognized him as an honorary German. It was said they had offered him a fine laboratory and a wonderful villa with an equally wonderful car, after placing him under the wonderful supervision of the Gestapo to make sure he did not run away rather than making as much vaccine as possible for the louse-infested German army in the east. Of course, said the story, Dr Weigel had refused the villa and the car.

    I don't know what the facts about him really were. I only know that he lived, thank God, and once he had told the Germans the secret of his vaccine and was no longer useful to them, by some miracle they did not finally consign him to the most wonderful of all gas chambers. In any case, thanks to his invention and German venality many Jews in Warsaw were saved from dying of typhus, if only to die another death later.

    I did not have myself vaccinated. I couldn't have afforded more than a single dose of the serum — just enough for myself and not the rest of the family, and I didn't want that.

    In the ghetto, there was no way of burying those who died of typhus fast enough to keep up with the mortality rate. However, the corpses could not simply be left indoors either. Consequently, an interim solution was found: the dead were stripped of their clothes — too valuable to the living to be left on them — and were put outside on the pavements wrapped in paper. They often waited there for days until Council vehicles came to collect them and take them away to mass graves in the cemetery. It was the corpses who had died of typhus, and those who died of starvation too, that made my evening journey home from the café so terrible.

    I was one of the last to leave, along with the café manager, after the daily accounts had been made up and I had been paid my wages. The streets were dark and almost empty. I would switch on my torch and keep a look-out for corpses so as not to fall over them. The cold January wind blew in my face or drove me on, rustling the paper in which the dead were wrapped, lifting it to expose naked, withered shins, sunken bellies, faces with teeth bared and eyes staring into nothing.

    I was not as familiar with the dead as I would become later. I hurried down the streets in fear and disgust, to get home as quickly as possible. Mother would be waiting for me with a bowl of spirits and a pair of pincers. She cared for the family's health during this dangerous epidemic as best she could, and she would not let us through the hall and on into the flat until she had conscientiously removed the lice from our hats, coats and suits with the pincers and drowned them in spirits.

    In the spring, when I had become more friendly with Roman Kramsztyk, I often did not go straight home from the café but to his home, a flat in Elektoralna Street where we would meet and talk until late into the night. Kramsztyk was a very lucky man: he had a tiny room with a sloping ceiling all to himself on the top floor of a block. Here he had assembled all his treasures that had escaped being plundered by the Germans: a wide couch covered with a kelim, two valuable old chairs, a charming little Renaissance chest of drawers, a Persian rug, some old weapons, a few paintings and all kinds of small objects he had collected over the years in different parts of Europe, each of them a little work of art in itself and a feast for the eyes. It was good to sit in this small room by the soft yellow light of a lamp, with a shade made by Roman, drinking black coffee and talking cheerfully. Before darkness fell we would go out on the balcony to get a breath of air; it was purer up here than in the dusty, stifling streets. Curfew was approaching. People had gone inside and closed the doors; the spring sun, sinking low, cast a pink glow over the zinc rooftops, flocks of white pigeons flew through the blue sky and the scent of lilac made its way over the walls from the nearby Ogród Saski (Saxon Garden), reaching us here in the quarter of the damned.

    This was the hour of the children and the mad. Roman and I would already be looking down Elektoralna Street for the 'lady with the feathers', as we called our madwoman. Her appearance was unusual. Her cheeks were brightly rouged and her eyebrows, a centimetre thick, had been drawn in from temple to temple with a kohl pencil. She wore an old fringed green velvet curtain over her ragged black dress, and a huge mauve ostrich feather rose straight into the air from her straw hat, swaying gently in time with her rapid, unsteady steps. As she walked she kept stopping passers-by with a polite smile and asking after her husband, murdered by the Germans before her eyes.

    'Excuse me ... have you by any chance seen Izaak Szerman? A tall, handsome man with a little grey beard?' Then she would look intently at the face of the person she had stopped, and on receiving an answer in the negative she would cry, 'No?' in disappointment. Her face would distort painfully for a moment, but was then immediately softened by a courteous if artificial smile.

    'Oh, do forgive me!' she would say, and walk on, shaking her head, half sorry to have taken up someone's time, half amazed that he had not known her husband Izaak, such a handsome and delightful man.

    It was around this time of day that the man called Rubinstein also used to make his way down Elektoralna Street, ragged and dishevelled, his clothes fluttering in all directions. He brandished a stick, he hopped and jumped, he hummed and murmured to himself. He was very popular in the ghetto. You could tell he was coming quite a long way off when you heard his inevitable cry of, 'Keep your pecker up, my boy!' His aim was to keep people's spirits up by making them laugh. His jokes and comic remarks went all around the ghetto, spreading cheerfulness. One of his specialities was to approach the German guards, hopping about and making faces, and call them names — 'You scallywags, you bandits, you thieving bunch!' and all kinds of more obscene terms. The Germans thought this hilarious, and often threw Rubinstein cigarettes and a few coins for his insults; after all, one couldn't take such a madman seriously.

    I was not so sure as the Germans about that, and to this day I don't know if Rubinstein was really one of the many who had lost their minds because of the torments they had suffered, or was simply playing the fool to escape death. Not that he succeeded there.

    The mad took no notice of curfew time; it meant nothing to them, or to the children either. These ghosts of children now emerged from the basements, alleys and doorways where they slept, spurred on by the hope that they might yet arouse pity in human hearts at this last hour of the day. They stood by lamp-posts, by the walls of buildings and in the road, heads raised, monotonously whimpering that they were hungry. The more musical of them sang. In thin, weak little voices they sang the ballad of the young soldier wounded in battle; abandoned by all on the battlefield, he cries out, 'Mother!' as he dies. But his mother is not there, she is far away, unaware that her son lies dying, and only the earth rocks the poor man into eternal slumber with its rustling trees and grasses: 'Sleep well, my son, sleep well, my dear!' A blossom fallen from a tree to lie on his dead breast is his only cross of honour.

    Other children tried appealing to people's consciences, pleading with them. 'We are so very, very hungry. We haven't eaten anything for ages. Give us a little bit of bread, or if you don't have any bread then a potato or an onion, just to keep us alive till morning.'

    But hardly anyone had that onion, and if he did he could not find it in his heart to give it away, for the war had turned his heart to stone.

Table of Contents

A striking Holocaust memoir that conveys with exceptional immediacy and cool reportage the author's desperate fight for survival and the German who came to his aid. When WWII broke out, Szpilman was a talented young Jewish pianist in Warsaw. Within a few years, he would be forced with his family into the Warsaw ghetto, where he supported them by playing in ghetto "cafes." Szpilman's memoir, suppressed by the Polish government shortly after its original publication in 1946, tells the story of the young man's difficult survival in wartime Warsaw and the deportation and death of his entire family.

Reading Group Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The Pianist are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Pianist.

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The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the movie, The Pianist, critics raved about a powerful moment when a hungry and emaciated Szpilman is confronted by a German soldier and must play for his life. While it was a breathtaking cinematic moment, it was a misrepresentation of the true Szpilman story. The movie makes us believe that his music softens the heart of the officer, who in turn takes pity on him. But the book shows a much different and emotional story. The S.S. soldier he plays for, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld, a Lieutenant in the First World War, was in Warsaw overseeing exercise facilities for the soldiers. In reality he was a kind and gentle person who sympathized with the Jews, and believed in helping others, even at the risk of getting himself killed. Had Szpilman¿s frozen fingers given out and all he could do was pound the out-of-tune keys, Captain Hosenfeld still would have helped him. That¿s just the kind of man he was. The movie does the captain an injustice by implying that it was only through the beauty of Szpilman¿s playing that he had sympathy. The book contains a powerful forward and epilogue that offer wonderful insight to the main character and the officer who helped him that the movie doesn¿t deliver. One of the most heart wrenching moments of the book was in the epilogue when Officer Hosenfeld died in a Russian prisoner camp. He had several strokes and by the end, ¿he was in a confused state of mind, a beaten child who does not understand the blows. He died with his spirit utterly broken.¿ That is what the movie doesn¿t show you. Szpilman¿s son, Andrzej Szpilman, in the foreword emphasizes that his father isn¿t a writer; he is a musician. I disagree. The book is intriguing on several different levels. It doesn¿t read like a journal or diary, but has the eloquent flow of an evocative novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Immediately following World War II and surviving for the entire war period of six years in the blood stain of a city Warsaw, Poland, a traumatized Jewish Wladyslaw Szpilman was flawlessly able to inscribe his account in a novel. Various matters about The Pianist never fail to impress me. For an example, although Szpilman's son plainly wrote in the foreword that his father is not a writer, but simply "a man in whom music lives", the account his father wrote was so eloquently pieced together as if it was always intended to be a novel not simply random memories he had to unleash to lift some trauma off of his mind. That brings me to another matter that deeply impressed me--how Szpilman authored his account immediately (1945) after the war. Most wartime accounts, especially Holocaust stories, were suppressed for years and then written out because many were not able to emotionally come to terms about what had happened to them. But Szpilman tells of his story calmly, as if in a third-person perspective almost, about this temporary man he became during the war but not really of the true him. However, the matter that left my mouth agape was the fact that Szpilman never once left Warsaw during the war. His policy soon became "stay where you are" and by the end of the war he was literally a lone man living in the burnt, devastated, and abandoned city of Warsaw, his only companions the rats who liked to crawl over his face while he slept. Even in the small section on the back providing the author's history, the last sentence remains, "He lives in Warsaw." Szpilman may have set out to write this book to relieve the pain that he had felt during the isolation he was forced to endure to survive, but I also believe he had another purpose. Every novel has a central message, a theme, and The Pianist's them becomes manifest by the ending chapters in which the readers learn about a certain German officer with a surprising heart of gold. The importance of the German officer helping the half dead Szpilman in his time of need is that it defeats all other ideas of Holocaust stories that the Germans were the antagonists and the occupied civilians and/or Jews were the protagonists. It was not a story of Germans versus Jews or Germans versus Poles, but of good people versus bad people. By showing that the German officer was not like his Nazi peers showed how good persisted in many souls, but race, ethnicity, or nationality did not matter in whom good chose to reside in. This is also exemplified more subtly when Szpilman condemns the Jewish police in the Warsaw Ghetto, who were simply bad people even though they were Jews and not Nazis. Thus, Szpilman chose to author his account of World War II, one of the many, because he wanted to convey that same message to a discouraged people of Europe after all that they had endured. I would undoubtedly recommend this novel to anyone who wishes to be profoundly impressed and moved as I was, and also completely understand the message that the Polish pianist had wished to express to an unsuspecting audience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book, although e-book edition is full of gaps in the story which is really frustrating. Hope B&N fixes that issue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman is a very compelling account of a Jewish man's survival in Warsaw during the Holocaust within Germany. The book begins with his life in the Ghetto and how he moves from place to place looking for a job, and one day he is playing a concert on a radio station when the invasion of Poland by Germany takes place. From then on is an account of the next six years of his life as he lives through the hardships of the Holocaust. Szpilman describes his suffering of the food shortages, large-scale deportations and gas chambers, forcible confinement of Jews to a walled-in Ghetto, and many more difficulties faced throughout this historical event. Once the war ended, Szpilman wrote a memoir of his experience which he was later convinced to translate and share with the world. This book provides a wonderful insight to the world of the Holocaust, Nazis, and Hitler himself. With the time period beginning with precursors of Szpilman's life and his background, the Holocaust itself and ending with an afterwards/Epilogue, the story line is clearly presented. This book is a nicely written account of the Holocaust that I would strongly recommend for anyone. Also, the book was impossible to put down! There are references to historical events to help view the book in a larger world context, and the view point of Szpilman is perceived and displayed concisely throughout the book. This book personally gave me a deeper insight into the Holocaust and the actions of the Nazis which I enjoyed greatly. This book is a great read and I hope you enjoy(ed) it as much as I did!
Roman-N More than 1 year ago
Having been born into a well-off family in America, I have never felt true fear. Still, I feel for people like Wladyslaw Szpilman, who fear of death constantly. Even with my so far easy and secure life, I can understand the situation that Wladyslaw and other European Jews feel during World War Two thanks to The Pianist. It puts in great detail the struggles of the Jewish people in Warsaw, Poland under Nazi rule. During the first chapters of the book, it seemed that Nazi rule was not an enormous issue; At first, everyone, even Jewish people, would live well. But, as time passes, the situation slowly worsens. Within a year, the Jews go from free people to prisoners within a ghetto. A year more would pass until the "Ultimate Plan" to exterminate all Jews will be put into action, sending people like Wladyslaw Szpilman to their deaths. Wladyslaw Szpilman explains in detail, "Save myself? From what? Then I realized what awaited the people in the cattle trucks." Wladyslaw is watching his family being moved to a death camp to suffer the fate of six million other Jewish men, women, and children. Wladyslaw undergoes so much afterwards that the book never seems to just come to a complete stop. He is always doing things to just hold on a little longer, waiting for his day of salvation. Although bleak through much of the story, Wladyslaw himself comments, "Unlikely as it seemed at the time, everything turned out as he had predicted," in response to his friend Zyskind's belief that everything will right itself in the end. I would recommend this book strongly; It is riveting, well-written, and it will change your view of World War Two forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
elleayess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book. I found it to be even better than the movie, which was pretty good in itself. Aren't all books better than the movie? The book tended to go farther than the movie on certain concepts, which I greatly appreciated. In addition, my edition came with excerpts from the Nazi officer who helped him. His journal was very insightful. The commentary at the end of the book offered the most information. What a great story of survival in such a dark time.
ckoller on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was heart breaking and remarkable.
SqueakyChu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every story of Holocaust survival is a miracle. Szpilmanâs story is a most amazing telling of the conditions under which his career was interrupted, his family and friends perished, his beloved city was demolished, and his life and health threatened. He survives against almost all odds during the Nazi occupation of Poland and the methodical annihilation of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. Despite losing two sisters to the Nazis, he never relinquishes his love of his country nor his devotion to his career as a composer and pianist. In a time of despicable treatment between human beings, there appear a few individuals who shine forth with kindness to Szpilman. It is their involvement and concern that is instrumental in keeping Szpilman alive through the end of the war. This is an astonishing story.
Katie_H on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an astonishing autobiographical account of a Polish Jew's survival in Warsaw during World War II. Szpilman, a pianist, shares his chilling tale using a calm and haunting style of writing, and the reader cannot help but be moved and inspired. While most Holocaust memoirs revolve around concentration camps, this one is unique in that it shares of his experiences in and around the Warsaw ghetto. His survival over those years was truly miraculous; he avoided death at the Nazis' hand many times, all of which are shared in his memoir. This is a poignant story of endurance, faith, and hope, and should be required reading for anyone interested in Shoah literature.
heina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The protagonist's emotional detachment due to trauma serves to make this narrative all the more compelling. Worthy not only for its potentially didactic use, it's an amazing look into the inner and outer life of a man struggling against forces that almost seem to not acknowledge his existence. The afterword makes the story all the more interesting.
bherner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Szpilman wrote an amazingly matter-of-fact book. The movie was true to the book.
mattviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In his book The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, Wladyslaw Szpilman writes, "A number of people escaped with their lives during the war because of the cowardice of the Germans, who liked to show courage only when they felt they greatly outnumbered their enemies." Truly and luckily, Szpilman is one among the number. From almost a million Jews population in the city of Warsaw, through "resettlement", human-hunting, and unreasonable decrees; the Germans trimmed the Jewish descent to its bone of merely twenty-five thousand in just 5 years. It is the very cowardice of the Germans, and more importantly the undying will of living that makes Szpilman's survival possible. I'm not in a position to judge the manner of which this book was written, simply because it was Mr. Szpilman's real life story and to whom I shall pay my highest tribute and regard.The prose is written in a very calm voice which somewhat surprises me at the beginning. Later I realize that no sooner had the war ended and the Germans surrendered than Mr. Szpilman wrote this account fresh from memory. It seems to be that Mr. Szpilman was emotionally detached during the writing as he probably had not come back to his senses after the inferno. That also explained why he could accurately recall and date the incidents accordingly. The book itself is emotionally difficult to read and at some points I have to put it down, close my eyes and meditate for a minute. Few of the incidents still capture my mind and bother me after I finish reading: Mr. Szpilman's parting from his family as his parents, brother and sisters were taken away to concentration camp; the clearing of a Jewish orphanage founded by his friend Janusz who stayed his children on their final journey, the Germans (fabricated) video-clipping of Jewish men and women shower naked in public bathhouse to show how immoral and despicable the Jews were; and Mr. Szpilman's fugitive life after his escape from the Germans. Mr. Szpilman attempted suicide but the will for survival overcame the idea. His life took a dramatic turn when Captain Hosenfeld found him in the ruined city of Warsaw and spared his life. Though he never found the man, as Mr. Szpilman reminisced, Hosenfeld was the angel without whom, Mr. Szpilman, a Polish Jew, would probably not have survived at all. During his hiding days, Mr. Szpilman meditated on the music pieces and arduously maintained the hope of playing piano for the Poles again. Mr. Szpilman's account is a stunning tale of endurance, faith, and hope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read. Everyone should know this true story of WWII.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Book Review I recommend this book as a good read to learn to about the Jewish life struggles during the holocaust. The author provides great information and detail about the day to day suffering brought upon to the Jews. In this horrific tale the main character Wladyslaw is tortured by the dawning knowledge that he and his family shall be hunted by the Nazi regime. With his want to pursue his dreams of being a pianist he not only stays out of the Nazis sight, but follows his dream of being a renown pianist, but not all of his family can be so lucky. Jewish life becomes a miserable experience for all of the in the city. The thing i liked most of this book was that it was written from direct experience of a Jew. This book greatly expresses the holocaust struggles and restrictions brought onto their lives. The author really describes the hardships given to the Jews. They were constantly discriminated against by frequently being beaten and sometimes to the point of death. Its also described that the Jews were used as lab rats for German weapons. The author also explained how the Jews were forced to pay more for things and weren't allowed own that much money. He portrays how Jewish citizens were forced into a life of poverty and total discrimination. The entire reason why the book was great at describing the holocaust was because its author had a direct experience and view of all the Jewish sufferings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The realities of what happened in World War 2 should not be forgotten. The author gives a clear picture of his suffering and the suffering and death of so many others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CathiMD More than 1 year ago
Hard to put down, very powerful account of what Mr Szpilman, his family and so many others went through during WW2. I would suggest this for high school students studying that time period and anyone interested in WW2 or Jewish History.
TheCounselorJR More than 1 year ago
Never have I read a book like it. You really feel like you are there in some of the richest prose ever writtten. I don't want to say any more or I might spoil it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much! Not only was it an easy read but it was incredibly factual. Wladyslaw did an incredible job sharing his unbelievable story and I would recommend this book to all readers, mostly interested in history. This book was very touching and was very addicting. I had seen the movie before I read this book and it is just as good if not better. The details shared and the unexpected events kept me reading. Even in the sadness of the Holocaust my heart was touched in this book. My heart goes out to all those who had to endure this horrible genocide.
Csele More than 1 year ago
The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman is a true testament to courage, heart and the will to succeed. A man who's entire life revolved around the piano, played polish music all over the radio. But tradgically during the age of World War II, Wladyslaw native land of Warsaw was bombed. The german missile that hit Warsaw took the lives of his most loved ones. He was stuck in hiding for several years scared that he would be captured and sent to a concentration camp. Luckily his life was spared and in a very warming and heartful way. A german officer teaches Wladyslaw how to get by other officers. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone in general. It teaches people to love one another and even the strongest of people would leave this book in tears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago