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Oldest Holocaust Survivor in the World Dies at 110

February 24, 2014 By:
JTA
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Alice Herz-Sommer, pictured here on her 107th birthday, has died at 110. Photo by Polly Hancock via JTA.

Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old Holocaust survivor and concert pianist whose life was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, has died.

Herz-Sommer, who was believed to be the oldest Holocaust survivor and was still playing the piano, died on the morning of Feb. 23 in London.

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, the 38-minute film about her life, is up for best short documentary at the Academy Awards to be handed out next month.

The film showed her indomitable optimism, cheerfulness and vitality despite all the upheavals and horrors she faced in life.

“I know there is bad in the world, but I look for the good,” she said in a brief telephone interview recently, and “music is my life, music is God.”

Trained as a pianist from childhood, Herz-Sommer made her concert debut as a teenager, then married and had a son.

In 1943, however, Herz-Sommer and her husband, Leopold, and their 6-year old son Raphael (Rafi), were transported to the Nazi model concentration camp Theresienstadt. Her husband died in the Nazi camp, but Herz-Sommer became a member of the camp orchestra and gave more than 100 recitals while protecting her son.

Liberated in 1945, Herz-Sommer and her son returned to Prague but four years later left for Israel. There she taught at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed in concerts frequently attended by Golda Meir, while her son became a concert cellist.

After 37 years of living in Israel she followed her son to London in 1986. She remained in London even after her son died 15 years later at the age of 65.

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