Sunday 23 November 2014

Oldest Holocaust survivor dies after 'beautiful life' at 110

Martha Linden and Ryan Hooper

Published 25/02/2014 | 02:30

Alice Herz-Sommer in a photo dated July 2010
Alice Herz-Sommer in a photo dated July 2010
Alice Herz-Sommer, pictured in August 2007 with Caroline Stoessinger who compiled Herz-Sommers' memories in a book, A Century of Wisdom.

Tributes have been paid to world's oldest Holocaust survivor, a gifted pianist who spoke of how life is "beautiful" in spite of suffering terrible losses at the hands of the Nazis.

Alice Herz-Sommer, who was originally from Prague, but lived in London, died yesterday, aged 110 years old.

The concert pianist was imprisoned with her son for two years in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, a staging post for tens of thousands of inmates who were shipped off to their deaths in other camps.

The Nazis imprisoned intellectuals, film makers, scientists and artists in the "show camp" where there were Red Cross inspections. Ms Herz-Sommer told the 'Guardian' in 2006 that she gave more than 150 concerts there.

"We had to play music because the Red Cross came and the Germans were trying to show what a good life we had," she told the newspaper.

"It was our luck, actually. Even so, hundreds and hundreds were dying around us every day. It was a hard time."

She also saw both her mother and her husband transported to Auschwitz and never saw them again.

The concert pianist, who knew the existentialist writer Kafka as a child and whose mother had known the composer Gustav Mahler, later spoke of how she had such a "beautiful life".

A documentary about her, 'The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life', is up for the best short documentary at the Academy Awards next weekend.

Speaking on the film's website, she said: "I think I am in my last days but it doesn't really matter because I have had such a beautiful life.

"And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love."

Frederic Bohbot, director of the film, told BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "She is the most incredible person I have ever met.

"I think she had no material desires, she was very curious about everyone and she had no hatred in her.

"She loved everyone in so many ways."

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