Władysław Szpilman and his family were forced to move into a ‘Jewish quarter’ – the Warsaw Ghetto – on 31 October 1940.
Szpilman managed to find work as a musician to support his family, which included his mother, father, brother Henryk, and two sisters, Regina and Halina.
He first worked at the Nowoczesna Cafe, where the patrons sometimes ignored his playing in order to conduct business.
Everyone in his family was deported in 1942 to Treblinka, an extermination camp within German-occupied Poland northeast of Warsaw.
A member of the Jewish Police (Jerzy Lewinski) recognized Szpilman from a concert and pulled him from a line of people, while his parents, brother, and two sisters were being loaded onto a train at the transport site (Umschlagplatz).
Szpilman remained in the Warsaw Ghetto until 13 Feb. 1943, shortly before it was abolished after the deportation of most of its inhabitants in April–May 1943.
Szpilman found places to hide in Warsaw and survived with the help of his friends from the Polish Radio. He evaded capture and death by the Germans and their collaborators several times.
Beginning in August 1944, Szpilman was hiding in an abandoned building. In November, he was discovered there by a German officer, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld.
He also offered Szpilman one of his coats to keep warm in the freezing temperatures.