The Pianist

This autobiographical tale by Władysław Szpilman is another staggering account of the holocaust, this one by a Polish Jew. A nationally known concert pianist living in a Jewish area of Warsaw with his parents, brother and two sisters, after the Germans invade they are gradually forced into greater and greater deprivation, until they are sent to the rounding-up area to be deported to – we now know – Treblinka. Just as they are about to board the infamous cattle cars, the author is pulled out of the line by someone – he doesn’t say, or perhaps know, who – and separated from his family. He goes into hiding; chillingly, after some time his brother comes to him in a dream and says “we are dead now”. He recounts his descent through increasingly desperate and dangerous circumstances until he ends up barely existing in the ruins of Warsaw in starvation conditions. He survives, but there is no silver lining to this dark tale; the German officer who finally saves his life is deported to the gulag and tortured to death in 1952, treated with particular cruelty by the Soviets for telling them that he saved Jews.

Another appalling fragment of the horrors of the 20th century. Again, nothing to say by way of commentary; it can only be read in silence.

Never forget.

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