It’s been said by many philosophers and spiritual masters that some of life’s greatest difficulties and challenges can lead us to the greatest treasures. Alice Herz-Sommer was perhaps one of the finest examples of that – a Jewish woman who managed to live an extraordinary life despite her years of torment and heartbreak at Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp, where more than 35,000 Jews were exterminated. Her life, and that of her young son, were spared only because of her brilliance as a classical pianist, and an offer from the Nazis to perform during the filming of propaganda movies. She was reminded every morning – after sleeping on a cold, concrete floor with her child, that they wouldn’t be killed if she continued to play well for her captors.
One of the oldest known survivors of the holocaust, Alice Herz-Sommer became famous for her unrelenting positive perspectives about life, and her joy of sharing music. When she nearly died of cancer at age 89, she decided it was okay because she’d lived a good long life, deeply grateful for all her experiences – including the concentration camp, which she saw as a gift that made her see the world through new eyes. After a full recovery, her life journey continued on, which (aside from interviews and documentaries) involved a simple way of life that included three hours of piano practice every day.
Alice loved to share her music with neighbours and friends in her little London apartment…including such notables as Franz Kafka and Golda Meir, who would be given home-made soup along with an earful of delightful music. She believed that music had saved her life, and that she owed it all to her mother who had relentlessly insisted that Alice practice her complex classical pieces for hours each day.
At the age of 104, Herz-Sommer shared her story in a book called A Garden of Eden in Hell, which tells the story of her years at Theresienstadt, and the many difficult years that followed. The book was written without malice and without judgement, emphasizing the good things, such as how the prisoners loved to hear her play… ‘it was like food for them and made them forget about their hunger’.
In February 2014, just before she died she stated:“I think I am in my last days, but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life. I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate. 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.”
Alice was truly a rare gem, one who managed to find a ray of of sunshine behind every dark cloud…always having a kind and positive word to share, often with a warm sense of humour. Her warmth lives on in everyone who knew her and in all that’s been recorded about her life.
The following is a link to an interview with Tony Robbins.
“Every day in life is beautiful…every day!”
An Oscar-winning documentary was created about her life called:
“The Lady in Number 6“. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oxO3M6rAPw
Note: Alice Herz-Sommer (born November 26, 1903), was a Prague -born Jewish pianist, music teacher, and super-centenarian. She lived for 40 years in Israel, before migrating to London in 1986, where she resided until her death, and at the age of 110 was the world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor until Yisrael Kristal (who was nearly 114 years old when he died) was recognized as such.