The summer reading program a few years ago required trying to get bingo on a card full of different book genres. I wanted a history book and saw this book as I was scanning the shelves. I picked it up because it had been made into a movie and because it was about a pianist (I play the piano, so music books are always a plus).
Published: 1999 in the U.S., 1946 in Poland
Genre: nonfiction memoir
Length: 224 pages
Setting: Warsaw, 1939-1945
Summary: Our narrator was a Jew in Warsaw as the Nazis attacked Poland and began their systematic extermination of the Jews. First, they had stricter laws. Then, they were confined to the ghetto. Then, everyone but workers were removed from the ghetto. Then, everyone was removed from the ghetto. Then, the ghetto was dismantled and Warsaw was systematically destroyed. At every turn, Wladyslaw got lucky and somehow survived even when the rest of his family was sent to the gas chambers. In the end, it was a German officer, Wilm Hosenfeld, who saved his life. A small portion of his diary describing his horror at the actions of the Gestapo was added at the end of the book.
Final thoughts: This book is special because it was written right after the events occurred, instead of waiting a decade or so as most of the Holocaust memoirs were. I was amazed to learn that Jews assisted the SS in rounding up other Jews, but there’s always people trying to stay ahead. It’s interesting to compare this book to Sophie’s Choice. While Szpilman doesn’t do much piano playing in the book (although he did tour afterwards), he does take great care with his fingers. He’s always worried he’s going to damage his fingers or hands doing physical labor and be unable to play professionally.
Title comes from: Szpilman was a famous pianist
Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this is a review from a previous year
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