Monday, March 10, 2014
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Alice Herz-Sommer, believed to be the oldest-known survivor of the Holocaust, died in London on Sunday morning at the age of 110.
The Associated Press
From then on, she took refuge in the 24 Etudes of Frederic Chopin, a dauntingly difficult monument of the repertoire. She labored at them for up to eight hours a day.
She recalled an awkward conversation on the night before her departure to the concentration camp with a Nazi who lived upstairs and called to say that he would miss her playing.
She remembered him saying: “`I hope you will come back. What I want to tell you is that I admire you, your playing, hours and hours, the patience and the beauty of the music.”’
Other neighbors, she said, stopped by only to take whatever the family wasn’t able to bring to the camp.
“So the Nazi was a human, the only human. The Nazi, he thanked me,” she said.
The camp’s artistic side was a blessing; young Stephan, then 6, was recruited to play a sparrow in an opera.
“My boy was full of enthusiasm,” she recalled. “I was so happy because I knew my little boy was happy there.”
The opera was “Brundibar,” a 40-minute piece for children composed by Hans Krasa, a Czech who was also imprisoned in the camp. It was first performed in Prague but got only one other performance before he was interned.
“Brundibar” became a showpiece for the camp, performed at least 55 times including once when Terezin, which had been extensively spruced up for the occasion, was inspected by a Red Cross delegation in June 1944.
The opera featured in a 1944 propaganda film which shows more than 40 young performers filling the small stage during the finale.
Herz-Sommer’s life inspired two books: “A Garden of Eden in Hell” (2006) by Melissa Mueller and Reinhard Piechocki, and “A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor” (2012) by Caroline Stoessinger.
In 1949, she left Czechoslovakia to join her twin sister Mizzi in Jerusalem. She taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory until 1986, when she moved to London.
Her son, who changed his first name to Raphael after the war, made a career as a concert cellist. He died in 2001.
Funeral arrangements weren’t immediately available.