H is for Alice Herz-Sommer: Her View That Life Is Beautiful

Many people were inspired by Alice Herz-Sommer. A survivor of concentration camps, she believed people could choose to be optimistic.

Alice died in February 2014. This article provides links to some of the interviews with Alice and the films made about her life journey.

The video above, for example, is a trailer to a documentary about her called The Lady in Number 6. Here is the official introduction.

Music literally saved her life! “The Lady in Number 6” is one of the most inspirational, uplifting stories of the year.

109 year old, Alice Herz-Sommer the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor in the world shares her views on how to live a long and happy life. She discusses the importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life.

Below is an introduction to Alice’s approach to life. Written by Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian, it was published in 2006.

Alice Herz-Sommer is, I think, the most optimistic person I have ever met.

She sits in her armchair in her single-roomed north London flat beaming at the beauty of life and treasuring the moment. She is 103 and cannot quite believe her luck.

This is not wholly what you expect as you read the summary of her life. It is true that she is an immensely gifted pianist, who has found great sustenance from her art and who, even now, practises for three hours a day.

But she has also experienced more unhappiness than any optimist has a right to expect.

With her Jewish background, she endured the miseries of the Prague ghetto, spent two years in the Theresienstadt (Terezín) concentration camp, where nearly 35,000 prisoners perished.

Her husband was moved to Auschwitz in 1944: she never saw him again. She lost many in her extended family and most of the friends she had grown up with.

All this she tells, with a near-perfect recall of dates, names and places. If she was ever bitter about the hardships she endured or the losses she suffered, it is all wiped clean. Instead, there is an almost evangelical zeal in communicating the necessity of optimism.

You can find the complete article at the following link.


You can also learn more about Alice in Caroline Stoessinger’s book A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer.

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