I told him that this was my old flat, that I had come back to see what was left ..." So begins Szpilman's account of how, in the final weeks of the Second World War, having escaped the Warsaw Getto and survived months of hiding, he was rescued by a German: Captain Wilm Hosenfeld discovered him, ascertained that he was a pianist - to convince him, Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor on a battered, out-of-tune piano - and without much further ado found him a better hiding place."He noticed something I had not seen: that just beneath the roof there was a tiny attic ..." Together, they made sure Szpilman could climb into it, and pull up the ladder afterwards.The son of the Polish Holocaust survivor who was the subject of Roman Polanski 's Oscar-winning film "The Pianist" hailed the awards as a tribute to the victims of World War II.The academy "appreciated the fate that befell my father, the total degradation of a well-known artist under war conditions," said Andrzej Szpilman , a doctor who lives in Europe and who attended the Academy Award ceremony in Los Angeles.
The subtext asks whether good people were on the side of the evil people and shows how the human spirit is enlarged by the knowledge of such people."e lives in a neat, narrow house with a small, well-kept garden.
Then, effortlessly, he moves from the familiar to the horrific. I found out later - this isn't in the book - that he was looking for toothpaste, but no matter.
When he saw me, he asked me what on earth was I doing there ... I couldn't say that I was Jewish, that I was hiding, that I had been in these ruins for months.
In fact, it is merely one episode in an extraordinary story of survival, recently published in English as The Pianist.
Wladyslaw Szpilman, already a famous musician and composer when the war broke out - Poles of a certain generation still know the words to his popular songs - was rescued not only by a German but by a Jewish policeman, who pulled him out of a queue of people boarding trains for Treblinka; by his talent, which kept him alive in the starving Warsaw Ghetto; and by, in his own estimate, no less than 20 Poles who smuggled him out of the Ghetto and then hid him in their flats, knowing that they and their families could be sentenced to death for helping a Jew.