The Warsaw Ghetto
‘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” – 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:
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.
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