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The final assault on Warsaw

Wladyslaw Szpilman was amongst hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in the final onslaught on the Polish capital:

The dreadful days of 25 and 26 September came. The noise of explosions merged with the constant thunder of guns, penetrated by the boom of nose-diving aircraft like electric drills boring holes in iron. The air was heavy with smoke and the dust of crumbling bricks and plaster. It got everywhere, stifling people who had shut themselves up in cellars or their flats, keeping as far as possible from the street.

How I survived those two days I do not know. A splinter of shrapnel killed someone sitting next to me in our friends’ bedroom. I spent two nights and a day with ten people standing in a tiny lavatory. A few weeks later, when we wondered how it had been possible, and tried to squeeze ourselves in there again, we found that only eight people could possibly fit in unless they were in terror for their lives.”

Wladyslaw Szpilman: The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45