Oldest Holocaust survivor dies aged 110

Monday 24 February 2014 21.56
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Alice Herz-Sommer was an accomplished pianist (Pic: Reed Entertainment)
Alice Herz-Sommer was an accomplished pianist (Pic: Reed Entertainment)
Alice and her son Raphael survived the war - her husband and mother did not (Pic: Reed Entertainment)
Alice and her son Raphael survived the war - her husband and mother did not (Pic: Reed Entertainment)
Millions of Jews were rounded up across Europe and sent to concentration camps
Millions of Jews were rounded up across Europe and sent to concentration camps

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.

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 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 II, but she and her son did.

Her grandson, Ariel Sommer, confirmed her death in London yesterday, 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'.

"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."

Ms 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. She emigrated to Israel before settling in Britain.

Raphael, an accomplished cellist and conductor, died in 2001.

A documentary film, 'The Lady in Number 6,' covers Ms Herz-Sommer's life.

It has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary at the forthcoming Oscars.

Malcolm Clark, the film's director, and Nick Reed, its producer, said in a statement that telling her story had been a life-changing experience for the crew and they felt honoured to have been able to capture her "lessons" for future generations.

"Even as her energy slowly diminished, her bright spirit never faltered," they said.

"Her life force was so strong, we could never imagine her not being around. We can all learn so much from this most amazing woman."

Ms 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.

She famously said she bore no grudges and saw her life as a wonderful gift.

In a text about her on Mr Reed's website, she was quoted before her death as saying she remained upbeat about life despite sensing she was coming to the end of it.

"I think I am in my last days, but it doesn't really matter because I have had such a beautiful life," she said.

"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 no space nor time for pessimism and hate.

"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."