Alice Herz-Sommer’s optimism and discipline helped her survive two years in a German concentration camp. Her story, as brought out in a 2006 interview with the UK Guardian, will be told for generations to come. Our oldest known Holocaust survivor died Sunday in London at the age of 110.
Her grandson, Ariel Sommer, said: “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.”
Ariel said his grandmother served as an “inspiration” to many. A film about Herz-Sommer's life, entitled The Lady in Number 6, is currently nominated for the Best Short Documentary award at next Sunday night's Academy Awards.
“She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side,” Ariel said. “We mourn her loss and ask for privacy in this very difficult moment.”
Sommers said that her music kept her focused and determined to survive her ordeal in prison.
In 2006, she said: “People ask, ‘How could you make music?’ We were so weak. But music was special, like a spell, I would say. I gave more than 150 concerts there. There were excellent musicians there, really excellent. Violinists, cellists, singers, conductors and composers.”
She also gave some sage advice as to her longevity, saying her calm disposition was the secret to her long life.
“My temperament,” she replied when asked about her age. “This optimism and this discipline. Punctually, at 10am, I am sitting there at the piano, with everything in order around me. For 30 years, I have eaten the same, fish or chicken. Good soup, and this is all. I don't drink, not tea, not coffee, not alcohol. Hot water. I walk a lot with terrible pains, but after 20 minutes, it is much better. Sitting or lying is not good.”