A 110-year-old woman believed to be the oldest survivor of the Holocaust and who endured the ordeal partly through her passion for music, has died in London, her family said on Sunday.
Alice Herz-Sommer, who is said to have counted writer Franz Kafka among her family friends and is the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, was a Jewish pianist and musician from Prague in what is today the Czech Republic.
In 1943, the Nazis sent her and her young son to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where tens of thousands of people lost their lives.
Neither her husband Leopold nor her mother Sofie survived World War Two, but she and her son did.
Her grandson, Ariel Sommer, confirmed her death in London on Sunday, saying: “Alice Sommer passed away peacefully this morning with her family by her bedside. Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear ‘Gigi’.”
He added, “She loved us, laughed with us, and cherished music with us. She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side.”
Herz-Sommer was born in Prague in 1903. She and her son Raphael were freed from Nazi captivity in 1945 when the Soviet Red Army liberated their camp, and emigrated to Israel before settling in Britain. Raphael, an accomplished cellist and conductor, died in 2001.
Herz-Sommer, who along with other musicians gave concerts in the concentration camp to keep up her spirits and those of people around her, said before she died that Beethoven was her religion and that music had saved her life and still saved her.
Herz-Sommer is the subject of the film “The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life”. The 38-minute film, in which she shares her life story and describes the importance of music and laughter for a happy life, is up for best short documentary at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
She famously said she bore no grudges and saw her life as a wonderful gift.