Holocaust survivor’s sunny outlook saved lives

Alice Herz-Sommer is the star of “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” the 2014 Academy Award-winning short documentary.

The 38-minute biopic documentary directed by Malcolm Clarke, filmed by Kieran Crilly, edited by Carle Freed, and written by Clarke and Freed stars an 109-year-old Holocaust survivor that lives alone in a London flat.

“My world is music,” she says. “I’m not interested in anything else.”

That’s a good thing. As the film’s subtitle aptly says, music saved her life.

Born in 1903, Herz-Sommer, a Jew living in Prague, was the oldest known Holocaust survivor until she died last February at 110 years old. She survived because she was a musician, a classical pianist. When the German Nazis invaded Prague in 1939, music got her and others through the Holocaust.

“At any case, I played a lot at this time,” Sommer-Herz said. “And once, the woman who take care of our house said to me, ‘Mrs. Sommer, Mr. Herman,’ the name of this German man, ‘asked me, suddenly you didn’t play. He asked me why. He asked me whether you were already deported. He told me he loved your playing.'”

Because of her musical gifts, Herz-Sommer was stationed at Therensienstadt, a concentration camp used for German propaganda. There, she played more than 100 concerts, including all of Chopin’s “Etudes” from memory.

“I knew we could play,” said Herz-Sommer. “And when we can play, I thought it can’t be so terrible.”

Music became a conduit to a happier alternate lifetime.

“Even thinking about music makes me happy,” she says.

Herz-Sommer’s inspirational story gives us hope in horror.

“It depends on me whether life is good or not,” she says. “Not on life. On me. Everything is either good or bad. I look at the good side.”

She played piano until she died on February 23, 2014.

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” was directed by Malcolm Clarke and won the 2014 Academy Award for documentary short. 

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