• Kyodo

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Despite his father, a survivor of the Holocaust, being portrayed as the protagonist in the award-winning film “The Pianist,” Christopher Szpilman says the real heroes were the German officer who saved his father and the many Poles who provided him haven.

Speaking to some 450 students at Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka on Tuesday, Szpilman praised the people who helped his father, Wladyslaw, a Polish Jew and concert pianist, survive World War II, and shared his father’s memories of the war.

“If there were more people (like the German officer), the war would not have happened,” Szpilman said. “And even if it had, it would not have developed in such a way.

“My father would always be joking even if you were talking seriously to him,” Szpilman, 52, said of Wladyslaw, who died before the film was finished. “Perhaps he was afraid that serious conversations would become ones of painful memories.”

“The Pianist” was highly acclaimed worldwide and won the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, as well as awards for leading actor, directing and screenplay at the 75th Academy Awards in March.

Szpilman said his father did not tell him anything about the war. He learned for the first time about his father’s horrible experiences when he found a diary by chance at age 12. “It was a shock. He didn’t seem like a person who had experienced such terrible events.”

Wladyslaw witnessed the Nazi invasion of Warsaw, eluded the death camps and survived by hiding in the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto.

After the war, he kept a hectic schedule as a pianist. “Because he would recall painful memories if he had spare time, my father made sure that he would not have any free time,” Szpilman said.

Szpilman came to Japan in 1994 and lives in Fukuoka. He serves as a part-time history lecturer at Kyushu University’s graduate school and other universities.

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