Holocaust survivor A. Herz-Sommer dies at age 110
24.02.2014 / 22:42
Mrs. Alice Herz-Sommer, said to beoldest Holocaust survivor, dies at age 110 in London. Herz-Sommer's love of her son — and music — gave her the determination and skill to play piano to survive two years in Terezin, where 33,430 Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis.
Alice Herz-Sommer, believed to be the oldest-known survivor of the Holocaust, died Sunday morning in London at age 110, a family member said.Herz-Sommer’s devotion to the piano and to her son sustained her through two years in a Nazi prison camp, and a film about her has been nominated for best short documentary at next week’s Academy Awards.
She died in a hospital Sunday morning after being admitted Friday, daughter-in-law Genevieve Sommer said.“We all came to believe that she would just never die,” said Frederic Bohbot, producer of the documentary “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.” “There was no question in my mind, ‘would she ever see the Oscars.”’
An accomplished pianist, Herz-Sommer, her husband and her son were sent from Prague in 1943 to a concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezin — Theresienstadt in German — where inmates were allowed to stage concerts in which she frequently starred.
An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent to Terezin and 33,430 died there. About 88,000 were moved on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most of them were killed. Herz-Sommer and her son, Stephan, were among fewer than 20,000 who were freed when the notorious camp was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.
Yet she remembered herself as “always laughing” during her time in Terezin, where the joy of making music kept them going.
“These concerts, the people are sitting there, old people, desolated and ill, and they came to the concerts and this music was for them our food. Music was our food. Through making music we were kept alive,” she once recalled. “When we can play it cannot be so terrible.”Though she never learned where her mother died after being rounded up, and her husband died of typhus at Dachau, in her old age she expressed little bitterness.“We are all the same,” she said. “Good, and bad.”
Herz-Sommer was born on Nov. 26, 1903, in Prague, and started learning the piano from her sister at age 5.
A film telling her story, 'The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,' has been nominated for a best short documentary Oscar.
As a girl, she met the author Franz Kafka, a friend of her brother-in-law, and delighted in the stories that he told. She also remembered Kafka saying, “In this world to bring up children: in this world?”