World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor Finally Gets Her Close-Up (VIDEO)

October 18, 2013 4:32 pm 15 comments

Alice Herz-Sommer. Photo: nickreedent.com.

At 109 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer can make multiple claims: she is the world’s oldest pianist, as well as its oldest Holocaust survivor. Now she’s also a leading lady, the centerpiece of a film charting her remarkable life, “The Lady in Number 6.”

Herz-Sommer lives alone in a tiny flat in central London to this day, sitting down daily at her piano, practicing her beloved Bach and Beethoven. But her life wasn’t always so pleasant.

As a 39-year-old Herz-Sommer was sent, along with her six-year-old son Raphael, to Theresienstadt, the concentration camp near Prague used by the Nazis as a propaganda set depicting good treatment of the Jews of Europe during their campaign of terror. There she entertained prisoners and Nazis alike, playing Bach and Chopin along with other musicians forced into captivity.

Despite her ordeal, and despite the fact that her husband Leopold perished in Dachau, Herz-Sommer has been able to maintain a buoyant personality in the years since.

“She just on all things has this philosophy that is incredibly positive. She’s just naturally, instinctively somehow along her journey picked up this process where her brain is always in a positive loop,” the film’s producer, Nick Reed, told The Algemeiner.

“People who have seen the film are just amazed that this woman has been able to take something like the Holocaust and turn it into a positive,” Reed adds. “I think the experience was really able to show her what matters, which is your health and human relationships. There’s no malice, no hatred, no negativity, everything is just processed into the beauty of the world.”

Reed and Oscar-winning director Malcolm Clarke have strung together a short film using rare archival footage and interviews, that not only showcases Herz-Sommer’s sanguine approach to the world, but also her passion for music, an artistic medium she refers to in the film as her “God.”

“It started off as an exploration of this amazing woman and what you realize along the way is that she’s even more amazing, ” Reed says.

The 38-minute-film is available to rent or buy online. To wish Ms. Herz-Sommer a Happy Birthday go here and click the “Like” button.

Watch a clip of the film below:

15 Comments

  • Carolyn Burnes

    Have a very, very, Happy Birthday! It is not my birthday, but hearing about you and seeing your wonderful attitude is a gift to me! I can only hope to be as positive as you in my own life! Thank you, Alice!!

  • Keith Greenberg

    Happy birthday you precious soul. May you find Messiah soon :-)

  • Alice Herz-Sommer radiates the spirit of good despite having endured years of soul-crushing malevolence. Should her unconquerable spirit inspire hope for the human species? Most would wish it could be so, but were not the Nazis also human? Is there a mental force that induces some to create beauty and the truths of science or philosophy that benefit all, while others demand absolute power to grind humanity beneath their heels, as did Hitler and Stalin?

    There is an answer to this question which is shocking. But, I will dare to write it here and leave its publication to the judgement of Algemeiner. In a word, the answer is DELUSION, and to grasp its power, which of the two following is more delusional: The Nazi belief that Germans are a master race, or the Jewish idea that they are the chosen people of God?

  • You have the warmest heart and the greatest smile! Your outlook on life is one to admire. I just want to give you a hug! Thank you for sharing something so personal. Happy Birthday!

  • I am vividly reminded of another Holocaust survivor, Helen Lewis (née Katz) who had the deepest impact on me as a teenager. She was a professio0nal dancer who also went through Terezin, then Auschwitz, who survived the long march afterwards, and made a new home in Belfast. There, she created the Ulster Dance Troupe and brought modern dance to the province. She was a tough woman, full of grit and determination, and a great teacher. I have never forgotten that moment when her sleeve was pulled back to expose the numbers. She never spoke about her experiences until many years later, when she wrote a book ‘A Time to Speak’, which is still available. She died in 1999 (born in 1916) and before that was awarded the MBE.

  • Happiest of Birthdays, Alice! My dear father (born 1907) was also a Buchenwald survivor who was a pianist. He would have been so pleased to see that someone from his generation is still with us. May all of your days be happy!

  • Arlene Adelman

    Happy Birthday. My husband lost 50 family members during the Holocaust. And during the Pogroms in Russia, my 27 year old maternal grandfather was killed by the Bolsheviks. The next day his two brothers were killed.
    You have survived obviously because of a positive attitude, good genes and love from different individuals.
    May you have many more healthy birthdays.

  • To see you smile and laugh is more inspiring than anything I have ever experienced. I have never seen a more beautiful sight!

    Happy birthday to an extraordinary woman, a great teacher!

  • Victoria Jane

    Happy, Happy Birthday, Alice! How wonderful that you have kept such a healthy mindset throughout your long life.

  • Mrs.Louise Elliott

    As chairperson of the 45 Aid Society who are all Concentration Camp survivors I salute you – wish you a very happy birthday and may you continue making music for a long time. God Bless.

  • My dear Alice, may you have a wonderful day. Many happy returns. xx

  • Gosh, 109 years old. And to have been through all of that. I live in London too. I wish her well. Beethoven is my favourite.

  • Here we are getting closer and closer to the hundred anniversary of the start of Germany’s second world war (don’t forget: they started world War 1, too,) And we’re still talking about it like it was new of the day. I;ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again:

    GERMANY WILL NEVER LIVE THIS DOWN!!!…sorry, guys: you brought this on yourselves!!

    • Michael Garfinkel

      I understand the sentiment, but Germans born during and after the war have no more responsibility for the Holocaust than you have for the Chicago fire, of for the burning of Rome under Nero, for that matter.

      • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

        Germany STILL has quite a few burdens to carry and implicit responsibilities for its past.
        Comparing the Chicago fire with the Shoah can only be the work of someone with badly burnt brain cells…………….

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.