Alice Herz-Sommer is known for two reasons: the first is that she was a super-centenarian–meaning that she had reached the age of 110–and the second being that until her death today, she was the oldest known Holocaust survivor.
In 1943, at the age of thirty-nine, Alice Herz-Sommer; her husband, Leopold Simmer; and her six-year-old son, Raphael, were all taken from their home in Prague, and placed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Before her family was placed in Theresienstadt, she was an up-and-coming pianist. It was her talent as a pianist that allowed her to make it through Theresienstadt. Not only did her musical prowess keep her motivated, it empowered her fellow prisoners to survive. The joy of making music was enough to keep her spirits up, and her concerts gave them a fighting chance.
“These concerts, the people are sitting there, old people, desolated and ill, and they came to the concerts and this music was for them our food. Music was our food. Through making music we were kept alive.”
While the loss of any individual is sad, this is most upsetting because we’ve lost another primary source. Anytime that the last, living witness of any major event passes away, it saddens me. Any unanswered questions might possibly forever remain unanswered. With the death of Alice Herz-Sommer, there is no longer anyone available to answer any questions pertaining Theresienstadt.
Below is a short video which shows her playing the piano. This video is a promo for her life story, the 2014 Oscar-nominated documentary, The Lady in Number 6.