The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945Book - 1999
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.
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Over Christmas and New Year 1945, the author was starving and freezing in hiding in the attic of a demolished home in Warsaw, Poland: "In my mind, I went over every Christmas before and during the war. At first I had a home, parents, two sisters and a brother. Then we had no home of our own any more, but we were together. Later I was alone, but surrounded by other people. And now I was lonelier ... than anyone else in the world [but] ... I had to be alone, entirely alone, if I wanted to live. (p. 182)"
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