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

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

4.8 40
by Wladyslaw Szpilman

View All Available Formats & Editions

ISBN-10: 0312311354

ISBN-13: 2900312311352

Pub. Date: 12/20/2002

Publisher: Picador

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


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 testament to astonishing human endurance and healing through compassion.

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 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
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
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
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 6 months 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
KicnQqtlxhqeju wymphryljhpiu yyqhls
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an easy read that is not at all easy to read. The even unemotional way this book is written is truly disturbing. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman is a true story about his survival in Warsaw during World War II. He was born in 1911 and died in Warsaw in 2000. This book traces his life through the German occupation of Poland to the end of the war and how he managed to survive during such a violent part of history. While reading the book the reader can easily see the horror of the events that took place through Szpilman's eyes with all of the detail that he provides. Pictures of the events are painted into the reader's mind, some of which are rather disturbing as they unmask the true fear that filled the minds of many at this time. Szpilman did a wonderful job at describing his life's events. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, specifically World War II. It provides great insight from a first hand encounter as to the lives of Polish Jews as they were forced to live in seclusion. It lets the reader intrude into the mind of a man whose music plays an important role in his life and ultimately saves it. Some of the things that happen really strike the reader and make them wonder how people could do these kinds of things to other people. I really enjoyed reading this book as it was a well written and detailed story that was both thrilling and moving.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
msscarlettt More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. Even through the horrific backdrop of the holocaust we are able to see a small light of humanity in the most unexpected place, in the heart of a German soldier. It does the heart good to know that when hell breaks loose there are still people who can and do act courageously.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago