Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →