Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor Turns 107, Celebrates Humanity

Friday, November 26, 2010

Alice Herz-Sommer celebrates her 107th birthday today. As if that weren't enough of a an accomplishment, she also happens to be the oldest living survivor of the Nazi Holocaust. Her love of music inspires her to live her life with optimism and faith in the human spirit, even though she lived through one of the most horriying ordeals any human can imagine. Vincent Dowd, arts correspondent for the BBC, visits Alice to hear her story.

In the concentration camp where she was imprisoned, Alice played more than 100 concerts, and she credits music for saving her life during this unspeakable experience that robbed her of her mother, father and husband.

She gained international fame after a book based on her life, "A Garden of Eden In Hell," became a bestseller. She was also the star of a prize-winning documentary film called "Everything is a Present."  And now a new documentary, "Alice Dancing Under the Gallows," chronicles her life, optimism, and passion.


Alice Herz-Sommer

Produced by:

Kate McGough


Vincent Dowd and Kal Elsebai

Comments [8]

Taylor Moore from sharon

I need some help, my school as been studying the holocaust and its a very big deal at my school. Does anyone know a way of getting in touch with any of the survivors? Please help me out. It would mean the world to me and my school if we could get a person to come in. Thank You!

Oct. 11 2011 11:25 PM
levine from california

A question for historians: which German camps provided concert pianos for the use of their inmates?

Jan. 14 2011 05:56 PM
Tom from Sydney, Australia

I found it. It's Chopin's Waltz in C Sharp Minor, Op. 64 no. 2.

Dec. 01 2010 12:55 AM
Tom from Sydney, Australia

Lovely Story. What is the piano piece she is playing at 40 seconds?

Nov. 27 2010 02:48 AM
jan weiss dembs

Alice, I hope you had the best birthday ever! You are an inspiration. I have decided to take piano again after listening to you speak and play. May the year ahead be filled with blessings for you. Happy Birthday!

Nov. 26 2010 10:01 PM


Nov. 26 2010 05:08 PM
anna from New York

OK, Celeste, I feel I have to add something.
One doesn't have to play to "have" music. Theresinenstadt meant to be a place for privileged Jews. Some (a product of assimilation, intermarriage and Christian education) were Jewish only in the eyes of the Nazis and discovered that they were somehow Jewish in the camp. I don't know much about this lady, but I do know that when she played Wagner (? her music?) inhabitants of thousands of towns (children, elderly and sick including) were shot by privileged "cultured" Germans (including doctors, lawyers and professors whose goal was to shoot a baby and mother with one bullet) and buried alive with melodies of Yom Kippur in their heart. No Wagner, no London, no NPR.

Nov. 26 2010 08:23 AM
anna from New York

I should start listening to something else in the morning - my stomach is allergic to stupidity. Celeste, who told you that other Jews didn't have their music? Bach is most certainly Jewish music. Sure. Why don't you visit a synagogue on Yom Kippur?

Nov. 26 2010 07:50 AM

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