WWII left central Europe in a state of ruins. Warsaw was entirely rebuilt after the war, and it is difficult to find any remnant of the original city before the devastation. It was reconstructed from several basic elements. Some streets and buildings from the period still remain in the suburbs. Other streets were entirely reconstructed in the Babelsberg Studio in Berlin.
After several months of intensive research, we discovered the old barracks of the Soviet army that were about to be destroyed. The production designer, Allan Starski and his crew, recreated the landscape of a ravaged city. The shoot began on February 19, 2001. Then the crew settled in an old villa in the residential quarter of Potsdam which was modified and redecorated as German headquarters. March 2, the film crew left for Belitz, a small town in former Eastern Germany. The scene with Szpilman hiding in a German military hospital destroyed by fire was filmed in a hospital complex dating from the turn of the century.
It had been abandoned and recently used by the Soviet army. On March 15, at the Babelsberg Studios began one of the most important and complex scenes to film technically: the attack of the ghetto. The director and his crew recreated the scene with Gruppenführer, the SS officer. Impassive, he is surrounded by his body guards near his limousine as he watches the capitulation of the insurgents. This scene was recorded for posterity in a very famous photograph taken at the time.
On March 26, all filming was completed at Babelsberg. After the crew, the material and the costumes were transferred, the shoot continued on March 29, for the exterior shots. This took place on the streets in the Praga quarter in Warsaw. This very poor quarter was saved from utter destruction by the Soviet army who set up camp there. The walls were still pocked with bullet holes. This is where Allan Starski recreated the main street of the ghetto with a few signs, posters and ads from the period. .. on ghost walls of a terrible past.