Oldest known Holocaust surivor dies in London at the age of 110

Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest known Holocaust surivor, died Sunday in London at the age of 110.

I’d written about Herz-Sommer last December. About her amazing smile, and positive outlook on life, even though she lost her husband and mother to Nazi concentration camps.

Holocaust-survivor-Alice-Herz-Sommer

Alice survived the war because she was a concert pianist, and the Nazis spared her so she could play music at the Theresienstadt camp, which was used a PR model of how “well” the camps treated Jews.

In fact, Theresienstadt was a concentration camp where people died in their own right, or were shipped off to Auschwitz and Treblinka, among other extermination camps.

In my earlier piece I included a wondeful snippet of a documentary about Alice, in which she talked about playing music in the camp:

Alice Herz-Sommer.

Alice Herz-Sommer.

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.

In the AP piece about her death, she talks about the night before she was shipped off to Theresienstadt:

She recalled an awkward conversation on the night before her departure to the concentration camp with a Nazi who lived upstairs and called to say that he would miss her playing.

She remembered him saying: “‘I hope you will come back. What I want to tell you is that I admire you, your playing, hours and hours, the patience and the beauty of the music.'”

Other neighbors, she said, stopped by only to take whatever the family wasn’t able to bring to the camp.

“So the Nazi was a human, the only human. The Nazi, he thanked me,” she said.

She was an amazing lady. You really should watch the excerpt from the documentary, below. It’s hard to imagine anyone reaching the age of 110 and not ending up a bit of a jerk. I’m not even half that age and I can feel life’s little annoyances accumulating in a rather unhealthy way.  What a neat person.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Thom Allen

    I didn’t think many people knew about this lady. The evening that her death was reported, I saw that her story was trending on the internet! Even in death, she may have made some people’s lives better. Great that many people learned of her rather than reading about a Kardashian’s latest wedding or divorce.

  • Bill_Perdue

    What a wonderful woman and a tribute to the innate decency of most people.

  • Thom Allen

    This lady had such an amazing attitude and outlook, in spite of the horrors she went through. Amazing woman a true inspiration. I didn’t think many people knew about her, then I saw that her name was trending on Yahoo because of the number of hits stories about her were receiving. That was also heart-warming. Often the only thing trending on Yahoo are things like another Kardashian wedding or divorce, news of Beyonce’s latest pedicure, etc. Great to see that many people were interested in someone like Mrs. Herz-Sommer.

  • 2karmanot

    What an incredible woman. Her music, light and wisdom—-incandescent.

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