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Wladyslaw Szpilman: Amazing Survivor Of The Holocaust

Updated on September 6, 2012

Here recently I watched a fascinating and interesting movie titled, "The Pianist." I had never seen this movie before; but it was not disappointing. The director of the movie is Roman Polanski. Some say that this is absolutely the movie that he was meant to direct.

Some may not know this about Roman Polanski, but he had a very important reason for directing this movie. I did not previously know this myself. However, he was a prisoner of the polish ghetto during World War II. Both of his parents were taken to concentration camps, where his mother eventually died. Polanski escaped the ghetto and traveled through the polish countryside, where he lived with various Catholic families. He was reunited with his father after the war.

The main character in this movie is Wladyslaw Szpilman. His journey through the holocaust and how he survived is fascinating and also what I would call miraculous! He was born on December 5th, 1911, in Sosnowiec, Poland.

On April 1, 1935 he joined the Polish radio, where he performed classical and jazz music until the Germans invaded Warsaw, Poland in September, 1939.

Wladyslaw came from a family of six, including his father, his mother, two sisters, one brother, and himself. He worked hard at his music to support all his family and barely got by on his income. Szpilman's family was eventually sent off to the Treblinka Extermination Camp. However, Wladyslaw continually managed to escape death in spite of the tremendous odds stacked against him. His story paints a picture of ghetto life that looked to be just as bad or almost as bad as being in a concentration camp. He is saved by a friend from the Jewish Ghetto police.

Like a lot of other survivors, he was forced to do back-breaking work. Also to be a part of the "selections." He was forced along with others in his crew to watch as those that were selected to be shot in the head, like rabid animals. Finally he manages to go into hiding, with the help of a non-Jewish friend and his wife.

In April of 1943 he observes the rise and fall of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He is then forced to flee after a neighbor discovers him. He then is provided a second hiding place where he gets jaundice.

Many buildings are finally destroyed, and Szpilman survives by going from place to place and finding food and water wherever he can find it.

Eventually toward the end of the war, Szpilman is discovered in a hiding place by a German officer named, Wilm Hosenfield. The officer questions him and finds out that Szpilman is a professional pianist. He asks Szpilman to play something for him, which he does. Even though this officer could have killed him, he helped save Szpilman's life. He told Szpilman that the war would soon be over and brought him bread and jam at various times. He later gave him his coat to help keep warm.

Wilm Hosenfield claimed that he had helped save others, but was not believed and died in a Soviet Prisoner of War Camp in 1952.

In 1950 Szpilman married a lady by the name of Halina Grzecznarowski. Together they had two children, Andrezj and Christopher. Andrezj was a very talented musician, as well and was also a dental surgeon. Christopher was a history professor.

Wladyslaw Spilman spent the rest of his life in Warsaw, Poland, in spite of the bad times of the war. He still loved his home and desired to raise his family there.

Shortly after the war, Szpilman wrote a memoir about his survival in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Szpilman died in Warsaw on July 6th, 2000, at the age of 88.

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    • profile image

      Marcia Ours 4 years ago

      Thank-you!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Just an other amazing story about a person who managed to survive in WW2 . Great hub! Shared