Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust and possibly the world’s oldest pianist, has died in London at the age of 110.
She `passed away peacefully’ on Sunday with members of her family by her side, her grandson said.
Born in Prague, Herz-Sommer and her son were sent to the Nazi concentration camp of Terezin, or Theresienstadt, in what is now the Czech Republic, during World War II.
A renowned concert pianist before the war, she gave performances during her incarceration in Terezin and played her favourite Bach and Beethoven pieces for hours every day until her death.
“Music saved my life and music saves me still,’’ she was fond of saying, according to the makers of “The Lady In Number 6’’, a documentary about her life which has been nominated for this year’s Academy Award.
She grew up in a privileged German-speaking, Czech-Jewish family, and was a playmate of the writer Franz Kafka as a child, according to the film’s website.
But her world was turned upside down by the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in 1939.
She lost both her mother and husband in the Holocaust, and when she returned to Prague after the war she found nothing left of her previous life.
In spite of that, Herz-Sommer insisted that she had never hated the Nazis.
“I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son.
“Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have neither space nor time for pessimism and hate,’’ she said.
Herz-Sommer and her son, Raffi, emigrated to Israel where she taught at the Music Academy and then became a successful cellist.
When he moved to England, she emigrated once more, this time to London, in order to be closer to him and her grandchildren.
He died before her, but she always remained grateful for the life she had had.
“I think I am in my last days, but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life,’’ she told the documentary makers.
“And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.’’ (dpa/NAN)