Władysław Szpilman started playing for Polish Radio in 1935 as their house pianist. When the Germans bombed the radio building in Warsaw in 1939, Szpilman was in the middle of Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor. This was the last live music broadcast that was heard until the war’s end. When Szpilman resumed his job at Polish Radio in 1945, he did so by carrying on where he left off six years before: poignantly, he opened the first transmission by once again playing Chopin’s Nocturne, the piece he was playing as the German bombs hit the studios of Polish Radio, interrupting its broadcast on 23 September 1939.
The Pianist (2002).
Szpilman is widely known as the protagonist of the 2002 Roman Polanski film The Pianist, which is based on his memoir of the same name recounting his survival of the German occupation of Warsaw and the Holocaust. During the early stages of the Nazi occupation, as a respected artist, he still imagines himself above the danger, using his pull to obtain employment papers for his father and landing a supposedly safe job playing piano in a restaurant. But as the German grip tightens upon Poland, Wladyslaw and his family are selected for deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. Refusing to face a certain death, Wladyslaw goes into hiding in a comfortable apartment provided by a friend. However, when his benefactor goes missing, Wladyslaw is left to fend for himself and he spends the next several years dashing from one abandoned home to another, desperate to avoid capture by German occupation troops.