Nitza Goldman
An Olah Chadasha learning to make sense of the world.

The Pianist

There are never enough words to describe the traumatic toll the Holocaust has on us. We live with it everyday, because six million murdered Jews cannot go unforgotten. Yom Hashoah is the day we remember every last person, from the elderly who were shot on the streets, to the unborn babies who were thrown off roofs with their mothers. We remember them, so the fire never fades, so we never walk away from how we got to the Holocaust.

I watched The Pianist last night with a friend. The Pianist was released in 2002, and is a Biographical film about Władysław Szpilman, a Jewish pianist from Poland who managed to stay in Warsaw until the end of the war. Like other Holocaust films, The Pianist shows how the Holocaust came to be. The first 12 minutes of the film are the most impactful. The Szpilman family, living in Warsaw, are preparing to leave Poland when they hear the news that England and France declared war against Hitler. They get hopeful that soon it will go away. Then Poland falls, and starts to adopt the Nuremburg laws. One particular scene spoke to me; Wladyslaw is out with another musician, a Polish woman. They want to go sit at a coffee shop. They arrive to the shop together and a “No Jews Allowed” sign is posted on the door. The woman wants to go into complain at this injustice, but Wladyslaw tells her no, that it’s better to not make a big deal out of it.

The film follows the Szpilman family into their new residence in the Warsaw Ghetto. We see the life in the Ghetto before the deportations to Treblinka started. We see the dead left on the street, the starved children begging for food. The Jewish police and the will they have to survive even if they know they will one day be killed at the hands of the Nazi’s too; but they still hope if they do a good job at falling in with the Nazi’s they will be spared the bullet. Wladyslaw manages to escape a transport, and watches his family being pushed onto a cattle car, knowing it was the last time. With the knowledge he is the last of his family, he stays in the ghetto as a laborer, and helps to organize the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but leaves the ghetto before it starts.

They didn’t expect it. No one expected it. The Jews fighting back. (The Pianist)

He runs from apartment to apartment, slowly losing himself in hiding, but never losing the spark that kept him going. The hope to play piano for Poland again. The hope that the war would end, that the mass killing would end. He survives the war by hiding out in an abandoned Pole home, which turned into a Nazi office. He survived by the good graces of Cpt. Wilm Hosenfeld, a high ranking Nazi who saved Jews from death.

Now more than ever we have to understand the Weimar Republic, how Hitler rose to power. How easy it was to convince an entire country that Jews were subhuman, and then for that to spread to occupied Poland and France. The ease at which neighbor ratted out neighbor. The Holocaust didn’t start in the Ghettos, it started when people started to tolerate intolerance. When bystanders chose to be bystanders, as they stayed silent and watched the humiliation of Jews take place. The more abuse we received, the easier it was to turn your nose at the scum of the world. The Holocaust happened because no one listened to the Jews when we said things were getting bad, and the world allowed it to happen.

The current state of the world, looks eerily similar to the Weimar Republic, pre Nazi Germany. The almost pogrom like mob mentality on University campuses in America, the bystanders standing by, the tokenization of anti-Zionist Jews; the hope that if you march against Israel you’ll be spared the bullet too. Any and all nuance of opinion is rejected. The antisemitism across the world is becoming normalized again, and the more we speak up about it, the more we are gaslit, told that we are making it up. That nothing like the Holocaust can happen again, but a pogrom took place on October 7th 2023, on that black sabbath, and the world sat by and told us we were doing to much.

Yom Hashoah’s date was chosen to be the 27th of Iyar, because it is the date in between the first day of Pesach, when the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising started which lasted for a month, and Yom Hazikaron. We commemorate the day the resistance decided to fight back. We commemorate the day when “They didn’t expect it. No one expected it. The Jews fighting back.” (The Pianist)

What makes a person want to survive?
A spark? kindness from strangers?
A will to carry on your family and your legacy?
In our darkest moments, when it feels like all hope has lost we find our spark even if for a moment, and it keeps us going.
We live to tell the tale another day. To bear witness to our days.
Even when it feels like the end, it also starts back at the beginning.
From the first spark of an idea to the last man standing to say
We Fought Back,
we couldn’t be lambs any longer.
We descend from angel wrestlers, and warriors who wield stones.
We persist, because we have too.
Because even when we have the last of us is standing strong with will, there will always be light.

The Pianist reminds us of how easy it was to follow hatred. Yet it shows the spirit and will to survive, and the goodness of people who chose to not be a bystander. This film highlights the worst of Warsaw during the occupation, but you also see the Warsaw resistance in action, the network of hiding Jews, and keeping them safe even if it costed them their life. In 1945 when we were promised “Never Again”, we took it to heart. Now we promise ourselves “Never Again” as we defend our rights to exist against a world which sits by and cheers on our oppressor again.


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About the Author
Nitza Goldman is a 22 -year-old Jew from Las Vegas, Nevada who spent two years learning at Midreshet Amudim, before making Aliyah. She is currently at Bar Ilan University studying Jewish Art.
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