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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This account of life in the Warsaw ghetto allows the reader to view the 're-settlement' of Jews during WW2 from a completely different perspective than the one usually portrayed in literature of the period, penned by holocaust survivors.
This is simply because it is not a recollection of concentration camp life, but that of a young man who managed to escape the net...
Published on 27 Feb 2003

versus
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult read
Hard to rate the subject matter makes this a difficult read. Also it is written in such an unemotional way it left me unsure of how I felt about the book. It's when you come to finish and realise that Mr Szpilman wrote this immediately after the war and therefore was somewhat still in shock makes you reassess what you have read. I would like to have known more about...
Published on 8 Jun 2009 by LadyM


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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 27 Feb 2003
By A Customer
This account of life in the Warsaw ghetto allows the reader to view the 're-settlement' of Jews during WW2 from a completely different perspective than the one usually portrayed in literature of the period, penned by holocaust survivors.
This is simply because it is not a recollection of concentration camp life, but that of a young man who managed to escape the net constantly threatening to close in around him.
The tale is told from a somewhat detached point of view, which indeed makes it all the more compelling in my mind. The matter-of-fact manner in which the author embraces his horrific experiences, brings his shattering ordeal home to the reader in horrifyingly blunt detail.
This is the type of subject that should never be ignored or brushed over; the heroism of the people who lived through the Nazi regime should always be addressed as a statement to mankind; and 'The Pianist' in its own way, indeed makes such a statement.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Wonderful, 22 Dec 2003
By 
David Firth "dudey_cool" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The Pianist, the true story of Polish-Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, that inspired the Academy-Award winning movie with Adrien Brody, is truly wonderful.
The book is written in a very simplistic form which parallels the simplicity in which Szpilman's life is barbarically ruined by the invasion of the Nazis. His story is told in a style free of hatred or bitterness that makes you, as a reader, respect him, especially considering the awful, tragic and harrowing events that plague him throughout the text.
The Pianist is an unforgettable account of one man's struggle under Nazi oppression. One of the messages that Szpilman communicates in the book is that it is not where we come from, for example Poland, or what religion we are, for example Jewish, or even our politics, that defines us; it is what we do with our lives. Szpilman is taken by the Nazis and is defined as a Polish Jew; nothing else, but by the end of the novel the reader understands him as being a pianist, simply a pianist. We learn this lesson also in the Nazi Captain, Wilm Hosenfeld. He saves Szpilman, proving that though he is a Nazi, the oppressor of Szpilman's world, he has the power to be good.
When you reach the end of the book you will be shocked, horrified and outraged at what Szpilman suffered and endured. But the most outrageous part, for a modern reader, is that it is all true, and that is what makes The Pianist a must-read. People must never forget the tragedy we are all, somehow, capable of commiting.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Easy to Forget, 4 Jun 2003
The Pianist is a deeply moving tale of repression and survival which highlights the plight of Jews in Warsaw over the course of the second world war and particularly the journey of one man, Wladyslaw Szpilman, whose courage and determination to survive should inspire awe in every reader.
It is always incredibly humbling to read accounts of the atrocities during the war and the Pianist is no exception. I feel torn when writing about this book as it is hard to write positively about such a awful period of time, but the narrative is heart breakingly effective and although one experiences great relief when the war is over, the plight of millions of Jews less fortunate than our Pianist is brought back into the picture by the moving excerpts from the diary of Wilm Hosenfeld.
It is a must-read in order to fully understand what went on and to appreciate what so many gave.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Story of Survival, 7 Mar 2000
By A Customer
The Pianist is a moving eye-witness account of one man's survival in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Wladyslaw Szpilman--a Jew and famed pianist for Polish Radio--relates his memories of the unutterable and unrelenting horrors of the Holocaust in Warsaw--the random executions, starving children, mass deportations--with a sober, almost uncanny detachment. And though the machinery of extermination is all around him, he somehow evades his pursuers through friends willing to risk their lives to hide him. His father, mother, two sisters and a brother are all deported and sent to their deaths in concentration camp. And, when it appears, near war's end, that he is at the end of luck, trying to still keep himself concealed in a part of Warsaw that his been systematically destroyed by the Germans, he finds an unexpected saviour: Wilm Hosenfeld, a German Army captain who, rather than kill Szpilman, provides him with a hiding place and necessities to kept him alive until the Soviet Army finally liberates the city. This slim volume written with in a kind of terse, no-nonsense style that will keep the reader riveted to each episode in Szpilman's incredible Odyssey, is probably one of the best books I have read in the area of Holocaust literature.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Miracle in Warsaw, 2 Jun 2007
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As quite a few reviewers did, I read this book after watching the film. I found the book, as I do most holocaust based books, to be horrific, sad and terribly tragic. Wladyslaw Szpilman is a pianist working for a Polish radio station when Poland falls to the German invaders in 1939. The subsequent segregation and systematic annihilation of the Warsaw Jews is then described with Szpilman and his family being the obvious fulcrum of the story.

Szpilman describes in depth the formation of the Jewish Ghetto, the Ghetto uprising, the Warsaw uprising, the `relocation' of his family to the gas chambers, the beatings, shootings and the random murder of so many of his race. A story of pure savagery that even after so many books, films and documentaries still shocks the reader to the core.

The main theme of this book however concerns the miraculous survival of the author. He is picked out from the `relocation' queue by an old friend who is now a Jewish Ghetto policeman and then embarks on a hide and seek escapade through various safe houses in Warsaw. Living with an instant death sentence if discovered, Szpilman is hidden at these various locations for weeks at a time, always alone and often without food. Eventually in the courageous Warsaw uprising the author is forced to take refuge in an abandoned building which catches fire, he is then discovered by the Germans and shot at but escapes. In what is a virtually a now abandoned Warsaw he takes refuge in other abandoned buildings and is eventually caught in one foraging for food by a German Captain namely Wilm Hosenfeld. Expecting the worse Szpilman finds the opposite and his life is saved by this kind and honourable German officer. Hosenfeld befriends Szpilman, hides him, feeds him and provides him warm clothing. Hosenfeld then disappears from the story when the Russians enter Warsaw and the Germans retreat. However the story has a twist as Hosenfeld gets taken prisoner by the Russians and in the post war period Szpilman finds this out and tries to find Hosenfeld to barter for his release. Alas this humanitarian Captain dies in a Russian prison camp in the early 1950's.

A sad but miraculous story, sometime told in quite a banal matter of fact matter with not much emotion....but it is said in the book that the author wrote the book immediately after the war ended...after so much horror I doubt if the author had any emotion left!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two hundred and twenty two pages of adrenalin!, 26 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This book tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman's incredible
and unlikely survival through the war years in occupied Warsaw.
Szpilman describes the horror of the Warsaw ghetto and tells of the sickening
brutality administered by the Gestapo and Jewish Secret Police
towards the Jews.
He narrates with a chilling frankness and leaves the reader feeling
both shocked and relieved that they are not in his situation.
The book reaches the pinnacle of sadnesss when Szpilman watches his
own family being taken in cattle trucks to the death camp in Treblinka.
Somehow though, he finds the will to carry on despite the odds being
stacked heavily against him. A house fire, accute malnutrition and
near capture are all obstacles in Szpilman's plight.
Eventually he is found by an German enemy soldier who saves him
from the brink of starvation and certain death...
Of all the second world war accounts I have read this has got to
be one of my favourites.
A captivating read - full of the stuff of escape and near misses
Great !
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANTLY EVOCATIVE OF BEING CAGED IN YOUR OWN HOME, 31 Jan 2000
By A Customer
My 81-year old cousin is a friend of the author; lived through The Occupation, and suggested I read this translation of Smierc Miasta. It was beautifully translated by Anthea Bell, evocative, and the herding of humans into a ghetto and the parsitical behaviour of fellow inmates contrasted with the simple dignity of The Last Supper of a toffee at Umschlagplatz before the Gas Chamber.
THe furtive hiding in different burrows around Warsaw, and the final irony. Discovery by a German Officer, who shows mercy, compassion, and redemption as he saves a Jewish life only to lose his own.
Beneath uniforms is humanity, and often help comes from those you do not expect, and your own are your worst enemies. A human story amidst inhumanity. Beautifully poetic and balanced: a classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An almost indescribably powerful work of art., 23 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pianist (Hardcover)
The Pianist is Szpilman's personal account of the incremental loss of his home, his family and his will to live in German-occupied Warsaw. From 1939 to 1945, the Jewish population in Warsaw fell from 500,000 to less than 50,000. During these years, German soldiers and Ukrainian thugs-for-hire taunted, tortured, mutilated and murdered an innocent and defenseless people. Initially Szpilman's status as a celebrity kept him alive but ultimately it was his raw survival instinct that was the key to his endurance.
The power of this work stems from Szpilman's personal yet detached manner of telling his story. It seems a nearly impossible task to describe in words the kind of horrific events that took place during this time. Humanity must always be aware of the evil that lurks within our nature. We must never forget the horrors we are capable of perpetrating, observing, tolerating and permitting. This book should be required reading for every citizen of the modern world. The world must never forget the Holocaust.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving account of one mans struggle to survive the holocaust, 21 Oct 2003
The Pianist is an amazing account of Wladyslaw Szpilman's struggle against all odds to live through the second world war.
The book begins just as the first news of the war begins to reach the city. Life goes on as usual and it is only when the war begins escalating so deep into Poland that it is literally knocking on the door that reality sinks in.
Wladyslaw was a popular Pianist in Warsaw before the war and desperately tries to continue with his life despite the chaos that now surrounds him. In the early stages of the book there appears to be a lack of comprehension into the severity of the situation for the Jews as the German army begin to carve up areas of Warsaw and begin the segregation of the population.
As time goes on the Germans presence becomes ever more dominant and before long life for Wladyslaw and his family is confined to the ghetto where life is uncertain and hard for everyone. As the Germans set about disposing of the 'undesirable' elements of Warsaws population in a sickenly efficient manner.
During this time Wladyslaw loses many people close to him and what follows is a relentless struggle to stay alive. On many occasions Wladyslaw defies all odds to survive in situations that appear so impossible that if this book was fictional you would more than likely find it inplausible. The reality is shocking as the story of desperation unravels into a sickening lottery of life.
The emotional undercurrent of the book evolves as the story goes on, however, Wladyslaw does very well not to get swept away with bitterness, anger or disbelief which is interesting considering he originally wrote the story almost immediately after the war had finished. Instead he tells of what kept him going, what gave him the will to live and shares moments of love and humanity that at the time were clearly few and far between. This provides for a very interesting and open account of what happened during this period in time.
It is clear from reading this book that Wladyslaw did not set out to be a hero, in many ways he was very submissive - doing what he had to do to get through the War rather than directly rebelling against the overwhelming suffering that had been forced on the Jewish population of Warsaw (see 'The Avengers')... However, Wladyslaw demonstrates overwhelming courage and determination and manages to shed some light on what is a particularly dark time in history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 17 Dec 2008
This is an excellent read and I read it in one sitting. It wasn't what I expected though - I was expecting that it would be an account of one man's psychological survival through an horrific time. However, it is a very matter-of-fact account of the details of what happened to him. I found though that this made it even more moving and profound; the simplicity of the manner in which he relays his experiences makes it all the more shocking and very, very sad. This is one amazing man. A must read.
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