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Music saves me still
February 23, 2014 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known Holocaust survivor and subject of the film "The Lady in Number Six" has died at the age of 110. Before World War II, Alice was a concert pianist who travelled across Europe. During the war, Alice's mother and husband were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered, and Alice and her six year old son were sent to Theresienstadt. Alice performed more than 100 concerts at Theresienstadt, and immigrated to Israel with her son after surviving the camp.

Previously on Metafilter

"Everything starts and ends."

BBC radio interview, part 2

A Mother's Gift

Alice playing Chopin
posted by roomthreeseventeen (53 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, what an amazing woman.

Sleep sweet, Alice.

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posted by MissySedai at 2:47 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


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Fuck you, Hitler. You got beat by a concert pianist by nearly seventy years.
posted by Etrigan at 2:47 PM on February 23 [26 favorites]


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posted by bardophile at 2:47 PM on February 23


Wow.

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posted by blurker at 2:52 PM on February 23


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posted by dabitch at 2:58 PM on February 23


One day, human beings who are seniors will be recognized as treasures troves of life experience. In the meantime, after watching that interview I have to say I can recognize at least one.

We are all made of stars, indeed.

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posted by Mike Mongo at 2:58 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


RIP.
posted by jonmc at 3:06 PM on February 23


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posted by limeonaire at 3:08 PM on February 23


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posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:08 PM on February 23


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posted by Aizkolari at 3:18 PM on February 23


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posted by beagle at 3:20 PM on February 23


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posted by something something at 3:22 PM on February 23


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posted by Elsa at 3:25 PM on February 23


Thank you for sharing. A wonderful life and a true testament to all that is good.

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posted by vac2003 at 3:25 PM on February 23


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posted by joethefob at 3:25 PM on February 23


Living well really IS the best revenge.
posted by easily confused at 3:27 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


rest in peace
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:30 PM on February 23


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posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:31 PM on February 23


I am confused. The last survivor? World War II ended approx. 70 years ago. While I understand that the Holocaust was a systematic extermination, I would have thought there would be dozens, hundreds, of those who were in their teens who were still living. Again, I realize to some extent it is apples and oranges, but about 9% of World War II American vets are still living. She was a great woman, but it seems to dishonor those others surviving to call her the last.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:33 PM on February 23


Oldest survivor is what it says.
posted by aubilenon at 3:34 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


I am confused. The last survivor?

Right, oldest survivor does not mean last. But what I'm sitting here wondering and Googling is, who's keeping score? If she was known to be the oldest survivor, who's now the oldest survivor?
posted by beagle at 3:37 PM on February 23


When asked in 2006 what the secret of her longevity was, she answered: In a word: optimism. I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.” “My recommendation is not to eat a lot, but also not to go hungry. Fish or chicken and plenty of vegetables.”

When asked whether she was afraid of dying, she replied: “Not at all. No. I was a good person, I helped people, I was loved, I have a good feeling.”
posted by maggieb at 3:39 PM on February 23 [16 favorites]


My bad. When people were saying end of an era, I assumed that meant something else.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:40 PM on February 23


110, bless her soul. RIP, Alice, you earned it.
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posted by dbiedny at 3:47 PM on February 23


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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:22 PM on February 23


"But disaster struck shortly after she moved to London when Raffi died suddenly in Israel while on a concert tour with the Solomon Trio. Grief-stricken, Alice was hospitalized for weeks before she gradually began to recover from the shock and sadness."

In addition to her many losses, there is also the loss of her son, many years later. Not related to the historical horror but devestating, nonetheless. I wish she had been spared that.
posted by Morrigan at 4:49 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


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posted by scody at 4:53 PM on February 23


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posted by Obscure Reference at 5:13 PM on February 23


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posted by lalochezia at 5:13 PM on February 23


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posted by pemberkins at 5:36 PM on February 23


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Unrelated, but the last of the Von Trapp children died this week as well.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 5:38 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:39 PM on February 23


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posted by oceanjesse at 5:46 PM on February 23


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posted by korej at 5:54 PM on February 23


I was a good person, I helped people, I was loved...

None of us could ask for a better epitaph.

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posted by BlueHorse at 5:56 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


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posted by Bromius at 6:02 PM on February 23


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posted by jim in austin at 6:13 PM on February 23


Man, motherfuck a Nazi. The shit they pulled eighty years back is still violently tearing at this world, and as the years lumber on by accountability for their ugly bullshit is just going to continue to diminish as the vile scumshits involved start to reach ages that very few live past. When the only thing going for your organization is that your uniforms are snappy* (thanks, Hugo Boss!), it's time to think about changing allegiances. Same goes for when your group or club or whatever commit themselves to spreading odious atrocities instead of, say, collecting canned food for the poor. Clumsy analogy, I know, but it beats me just typing FUCK A NAZI six million times in a row.

*note I'm not talking about modern Neo-Nazis - those assholes are revolting and poorly dressed.

posted by item at 6:34 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 7:09 PM on February 23


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posted by acb at 7:18 PM on February 23


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There are several bios of her published in the UK.
posted by brujita at 7:28 PM on February 23


I have had the honor to know and befriend three Holocaust survivors. Each was so very much a better person than I could ever be. To even call them "better" is a disservice. They were wonderful, funny, tragic, forgiving, wise, giving, and loving.
And never...ever...spent a second, hating on the people who did those terrible things. That was THE most astonishing thing.
to be fair I cannot say they didn't feel hatred...well justified...but to me or anyone who knew them...never expressed it, not to children or rabbi...
posted by shockingbluamp at 7:33 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I hope she enters Paradise. •
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:39 PM on February 23


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posted by scottymac at 8:37 PM on February 23


Thank you, Alice, for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us and for anchoring our hearts in the belief that good always triumphs over evil in the end.

May you have peace and joy everlasting.
posted by aryma at 10:05 PM on February 23


There's something really...incredible about the idea that the Nazis allowed one of the prisoners at a concentration camp to perform classical music for her fellow inmates. I just can't square the idea that they'd let them listen to world-class piano playing one day and gas them en masse the next, or that they'd even recognize that such a performer deserved an audience at all, or that the audience she had available to her could appreciate her art.

I guess to me the narrative of concentration camps has always been about the wardens dehumanizing the prisoners to such an extent that they didn't feel much emotion about murdering them in huge numbers. But this woman's music, and her fellows' reactions to it, had to be pretty universally accessible. How could you hear this woman playing and know that the next day you might kill her family, and still go through with it?

Thank you for posting this story. It's definitely given me something to ponder.
posted by town of cats at 10:21 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


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"Her mother was a playmate of composer Gustav Mahler and as a child Herz-Sommer often played with German-language novelist Franz Kafka who came to her home for Sunday lunch."

Ausgezeichnet.
posted by On the Corner at 11:57 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


♪♫ That picture of her laughing is such a testament to her indomitable spirit.
posted by Cranberry at 12:18 AM on February 24


There's something really...incredible about the idea that the Nazis allowed one of the prisoners at a concentration camp to perform classical music for her fellow inmates.

Theresienstadt was originally a ghetto, and was converted into a "model" concentration camp; i.e., the one they would use for propaganda purposes to dispel the (true) rumors about what went on elsewhere. The prisoners were not given musical instruments out of any sense of humanity, but so they could perform for visiting dignitaries and the Red Cross. There's a saying in the Talmud: the kindness of the cruel is also cruel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:06 AM on February 24 [5 favorites]


When you carry hatred, evil wins. Victory means a long life, well-lived, containing joy; we travel lightest when unburdened by resentments.

Alice, a period seems too small a way to end your long and wonderful run. I give you a

!
posted by kinnakeet at 5:53 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


Thank you for that explanation, Joe in Australia. I ought to have guessed it was something like that.
posted by town of cats at 9:42 PM on February 24


110-Year-Old Candymaker Now Stakes Claims as Oldest Holocaust Survivor
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:24 PM on February 27


The documentary referenced in this post just won an Academy Award. The acceptance remarks were mostly about what a wonderful person she was.
posted by maggieb at 6:41 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


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