Pianist and Holocaust Survivor Dies, Aged 110
An acclaimed pianist regarded as the oldest Holocaust survivor has died in London aged 110. Alice Herz-Sommer’s ordeal inside Nazi death camps is recounted in a film up for an Oscar in the coming week.
Family members told the Israeli online newspaper Ynet on Sunday that the 110-old Auschwitz survivor Alice Herz-Sommer had passed away “peacefully” in her sleep in London. She had been admitted to a clinic on Friday.
The documentary film “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” made by Oscar-winning filmmaker Malcolm Clarke has been nominated for the short documentary section of the Los Angeles’ Academy Awards next Sunday.
In 1943, the Nazis sent Herz-Sommer, her son and husband from Prague to Theresienstadt concentration camp. She and her son, Stephan, were among fewer than 20,000 Jewish inmates freed when Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945.
Her husband Leopold had died of typhus at Dachau. In 1949, Herz-Sommer emigrated to Israel and then with her son in 1986 to London.
At Theresienstadt inmates staged concerts for other inmates and German officers in which she often starred as an acclaimed pianist.
“Music was our food,” Herz-Sommer once recalled. “Through making music we were kept alive.”
“These concerts, the people sitting there, old people, desolated and ill, and they came to the concerts and this music was for them our food.”
Born in 1903, Herz-Sommer studied in pre-war years from the age of 16 at Prague’s German music academy and then gained acclaim throughout Europe.
Before being deported from Prague in 1942, she took refuge in intensively practicing the 24 Etudes of Frederic Chopin.
Another camp survivor, Anita Lasker-Wallfish, described Herz-Sommer as a “real optimist” who went on to live a modest life.
“She would hate any fuss to be made,” she said.