Oldest living pianist, and Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer just turned 110 years old.
As the video below shows, the woman is an inspiration. And at 110, still plays a mean piano.
Alice was on her way to an international career as a concert pianist when the Nazis invaded her native Prague in 1939.
The Wall Street Journal has more:
Ms. Herz-Sommer was well on her way to an international career when the Nazis invaded Prague, the city of her birth, on March 15, 1939. Forbidden as a Jew from playing public concerts, she continued to practice long hours in her apartment until the day in July 1943 when she, her husband, Leopold Sommer, and Rafi, their 6-year-old son, were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Having heard rumors of concerts in the camp from Leopold, who worked for the Prague Jewish Community Organization, she faced the imprisonment with cautious optimism. “How bad can it be if we can make music?” she remembers thinking.
But from the moment she was herded inside the camp’s gates at age 40, Ms. Herz-Sommer confronted the horrific reality of life in Hitler’s waiting room for Auschwitz. Thousands disappeared, only to be replaced with new shipments of human cargo. In September 1944, Leopold was shipped to Auschwitz. She would never see her husband again.
Theresienstadt, now in the modern-day Czech Republic, was used as PR model of how “well” the Nazis supposedly treated the Jews. In fact, it was a concentration camp where people died in their own right, or were shipped off to Auschwitz and Treblinka, among other extermination camps.
Below is a relatively short video about Alice Herz-Sommer. It’s part of a larger documentary called “The Lady in Number 6,” referring to her current apartment in London. Here’s a snippet of what Alice had to say about the Nazis having her and others play concerts in the Theresienstadt camp:
Even the bad is beautiful, I would say. Even the bad is beautiful. It has to be, when you are knowing that you are playing the evening, the concert, and people old, terribly ill, people came to this concert and became young. It is a mystery that when the first tone of music starts, it goes straight away in our soul.
I loved to play. We should thank Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann. They gave us beauty. They gave us indescribable beauty. They made us happy.
Only when we are so old – only – we are aware of the beauty of life.
A really fascinating woman, and I just can’t imagine making it to 110 and being this positive of a person, let alone with what she’s experienced over the years. What a neat lady. (h/t Upworthy)