The Warsaw Ghetto

(Last Updated On: January 16, 2017)

The Warsaw Ghetto

The Pianist

‘Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.’

Grade Level: 9-12, college

Subject: History, Music, Current Events

Keywords: Lesson Plan, Movies in the Classroom, holocaust, attic, based-on-autobiography, based-on-true-story, deportation, execution, fugitive-from-nazi, genocide, gestapo, ghettoization, hiding-place, humiliation, hunger, jaundice, luggage, murder, music, nazi-occupied-poland, nazi, piano-concerto, piano-player, piano, polish-resistance, starvation, tank, underground-resistance, violence, warsaw-ghetto, wheelchair, wwii, 1930s, 1940s, anti-semitism, concert, contraband, freight-train, historical, hospital, jewish, mass-murder, mistaken-identity, musician, pianist, police-brutality, prisoner-of-war, radio-broadcasting, restaurant, rooftop, separation-from-family, wall, war-crime, warsaw-poland, whipping, panzer.

Author: Sarah Lane

Affiliation: ClassBrain, Inc.

Date: 6 May 2003

Duration: 1-4 class periods

The Pianist

The Pianist

“The Pianist” – Background:

Based on a true story. A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto of World War II. Wladyslaw Szpilman, a brilliant Polish pianist escaped deportation and is forced to live in the heart of the Warsaw Ghetto. As he is hiding in the ruins of the capitol, a German officer comes to his aid and helps him to survive. Wladyslaw Szpilman published Death of a City in 1946, which recounts his experience, including life in the ghetto and how it was for the victims and the torturers. The work was banned by the communist authorities. In 1998, his son Andrzej Szpilman discovered the manuscript of his father’s memoirs which led to a new publication of the work. It was first translated and published in France as The Pianist.

Objective: Watch the movie or excerpts from the movie The Pianist (2002). Use the lesson plans to gain a better understanding of the plot and structure of the film. Use the Resources & Materials to complement your lesson plans or to develop unique lesson plans. This film is not recommended for younger viewers.

Resources & Materials:

The Pianist” Film Facts

Music from: “The Pianist”

Sheet Music: “The Pianist”

Websites for Student Resources

Websites for Teacher Resources

Versailles Treaty of 1919 – See Lesson Plan #5

The Pianist – The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 – See Lesson Plan #5

Vocabulary List- If you plan on using the Lesson Plans for younger students, this vocabulary list will be helpful.

The Pianist by Roman Polanski

The Pianist by Roman Polanski


See The Pianist – Lesson Plans

Film Facts for “the Pianist”

Genre(s):  Drama, War

Rating: R for violence and brief strong language

Family Rating: kids-in-mind  Please visit the “kids-in-mind” website to get a detailed explanation of why this movie is rated “R”. This film is not recommended for kids ages 16 and under.

Running Time: 149 minutes

Primary Actors: Adrian Brody (Oscar 2003, Best Male Actor) as Wladyslaw Szpilman, Emilia Fox as Dorota, Thomas Kretschmann as The German Officer, Michal Zebrowski, Ed Stoppard, Maureen Lipman as The Mother, Frank Finlay as The Father.

Director: Roman Polanski

Music: Wojciech Kilar (original), Frederic Chopin (non-original)

Screenplay: Ronald Harwood

Producers: (Primary) Robert Benmussa, (Executive) Timothy Burrill, (Co-Producer) Gene Gutowski

Studio: Focus Features

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