Holocaust History Archived Page
Survivor, Wladyslaw Szpilman’s Birthday
December 5, 1911
Wladyslaw Szpilman was trained at the Chopin School of Music in Warsaw, Poland. In 1931, he moved to Germany to continue his studies at the Berlin based Academy of Arts.
When Hitler took power in 1933, Szpilman left Germany, and returned to his native Poland.
In 1935, he took a job as the house pianist for Polish Radio. When Germany invaded Poland on September 23, 1939 Szpilman's performance of Chopin's C sharp minor Nocturne was the last live music broadcast on Polish State Radio.
The Szpilman family was eventually relocated into the Warsaw Ghetto. Here, he helped support his family by playing the piano in restaurants, bars and cafés that were still open behind the ghetto walls. He managed to escape deportation from the ghetto, and hid for the remainder of the war with friends, and in the remains of a burnt out house.
In 1946 his memoir Śmierć Miasta (Death of a City) was published and was suppressed by the Polish government. In 1998 his book was finally printed, and the translated title was sold as The Pianist in the United States. In 2002, his miraculous survival was turned into an Oscar® winning Roman Polanski film, also called The Pianist.
He returned to the Polish Radio after the war, starting again where he left off, playing Chopin’s C sharp minor Nocturne. He remained with Polish Radio until 1963. He married, and had two children.
Wladyslaw Szpilman died on July 6, 2000, having composed over 500 pieces of music, and organizing the Sopot International Song Festival, now known as the Intervision Song Contest.