Alice Herz-Sommer: Biography Of A Surviving Artist

The life of Alice Herz-Sommer proves two great truths. The first is that if someone has had a relatively happy childhood, they don’t very easily get discouraged by life. Secondly, regardless of the difficulties, what matters most in any situation is the attitude with which the situation is received.
Alice Herz-Sommer: The Biography of a Surviving Artist

We want to tell you about a special person named Alice Herz-Sommer; he is a survivor who defied death and managed to reach an impressive stage of 110 years.

Why do we say that Alice Herz-Sommer is a survivor? Because she was sentenced to death when she was still very young: Alice was Jewish and was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. And for this same same reason, he had also been condemned to the role of eternal sacrifice. Despite all the predictions, Alice Herz-Sommer became known by the nickname “the most optimistic woman in the world”.

In one of her many interviews, Alice Herz-Sommer said she had a twin sister with whom she shared both the same look, parents, and genes; but whose attitude was radically the opposite. Alice has said she was born optimistic and that she always strives to see the situation as the positive side of the situation in all circumstances, including the worst.

Alice Herz-Sommer was greatly admired for her vitality, which she maintained until the last days of her life. Despite his advanced age, he practiced his great passion, playing the piano, every single day. In addition, he was almost 100 years old when he enrolled at the University for the Elderly, and his enthusiasm to learn something new and transcend himself never burned to an end. That’s why we want to share with you the story of Alice Herz-Sommer and the keys to longevity and eternal optimism that helped Alice face her life.

Alice Herz-Sommer went to a concentration camp with her husband and son at a very young age

Alice Herz-Sommer and a happy childhood

Among people who have perseverance and perseverance, there is almost always a happy childhood. Alice Herz-Sommer was born in Prague, former Czechoslovakia, on November 26, 1903, into a family of Jewish musicians in which art and culture played a central role.

The most famous artists and intellectuals of that time passed through the home of Alice Herz-Sommer. Franz Kafka was one of the regular visitors to Alice’s home, and in fact Alice’s sister married the best friend of this literary genius. In addition to Kafka, Alice’s family was visited by e.g. Gustav Mahler, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann. Even Sigmund Freud himself was one of the invited guests of the family.

Alice felt a deep love for music from an early age. From the age of eight, he devoted his love and discipline to playing the piano, and as a teenager he already played in concerts all over Prague.

The Nazi conquest

In 1931, Alice Herz-Sommer met Leopold Sommer, who was also a musician. Alice and Leopold got married and the man became the great love of Alice’s life. In 1937, their only son, Raphael, was born. However, the happiness did not last forever, as in 1939 the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. Most Jews were sent to ghettos. However, Alice and her family were well respected in their neighborhood and perhaps because of this they were allowed to stay in their house.

However, things started to get complicated. As the war progressed, the Czechs themselves began to discriminate against Jews. In 1942, deportation letters reached both Alice’s mother and Leopold’s parents. It was a dramatic moment.

Alice herself had to take her 72-year-old mother to an deportation center. There he had to say goodbye to his mother and watch, knowing how his mother was marched towards his death. That moment of helplessness was the most destructive moment in Alice’s life. Until several decades later, Alice used to remember her mother with nostalgia, melancholy and sadness, especially through Mahler’s melodies.

Alice Hertz-Sommer died at the age of 110 in London in 2014


Soon a new deportation order arrived at the family’s home and that, an order that arrived in 1943 ended up breaking the whole core; this time the deportation order was addressed to both Alice Herz-Sommer and her husband and son. All three were taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, which was considered the “artists’ concentration camp ”. In theory, the prisoners sent to this concentration camp were kept alive, although it was later shown that it was a lie.

At the concentration camp, Alice began playing to the Nazis, who dined to the beat of this magnificent pianist’s playing, while planning her next destruction. Alice also called the concentration camp for inmates. Alice has reported that she made a total of 150 performances during her time in the concentration camp, and that in many of her performances, she was able to see how music nourished the demonized and tortured souls of people held in the concentration camp.

Alice’s husband was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and while saying goodbye, Leopold said to his wife, “Don’t do anything voluntarily.” Days later, the Nazis were looking for “volunteers” who wanted to meet their husbands again. Alice remembered Leopold’s words and refused. In this way he managed to save his life. In any case, according to Alice, the hardest thing was to see her own son starve and to compensate for this, Alice always smiled.

Alice Herz-Sommer and her son were few of the survivors of the concentration camp. After the war, they moved to Israel. Alice decided not to live in the past and raise her son without anger. Raphael eventually became a famous cellist and Alice died at a significant age of 110 in London, England.

Undoubtedly, Alice Herz-Sommer has been able to show by her example how far a person is able to cope and how our attitude towards life can determine our entire future.

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