Surviving through music and optimism: Alice Herz-Sommer, a pianist forced to play concerts for Nazis and subject of an Oscar nominated short subject documentary, dies at the age 110.
Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor, passed away Sunday morning at the age of 110. Herz-Sommer had been admitted to a hospital in London, where she lived, after feeling unwell Thursday. “She passed away peacefully, with her family by her side,” her grandson said.
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.”