World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor Still Plays The Piano At 107
They are words that even today chill to the bone: “Arbeit macht frei” – “work makes you free” – the bald-faced lie emblazoned over entry gates to the notorious Nazi death camps that still dot Europe like canker sores.
For Czech pianist Alice Herz Sommer it wasn’t work but rather playing the piano that eventually set her and her son free from Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.
At age 107, Sommer is the oldest Holocaust survivor in the world. As such, she has seen humanity at its most depraved. But she also has seen more than a century of good conquering evil. If anyone knows enough about the world to have a positive outlook on life, Sommer does.
In this this video, Alice Dancing under the Gallows, hear one of the world’s treasures tell how music gave her hope to survive the Holocaust.
Sommer was 39 and an accomplished pianist when she and her son, Rafi, were taken to Theresienstadt, the Nazi “propaganda” camp outside Prague. Unlike at other Nazi camps, at Theresienstadt children were not separated from their parents and musicians and other performing artists were encouraged to perform, thus creating plenty of opportunity for the Nazi regime to show the world the “civility” of their “work” camps.
Sommer gave more than 100 performances at Theresienstadt. Had she been sent elsewhere, her musical gifts might not have seen her through the war.
Today, Sommer still plays the piano. She calls Beethoven “a miracle.” She knows what she’s talking about when she says “hatred brings only hatred.” And she gives us all an example to follow when, even after enduring the evils of the Holocaust, she says “I love people. I love everyone.”