Oldest-known Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer died Sunday morning in London at the age of 110, her family has announced.
Alice Herz-Sommer died in a hospital after being admitted Friday, daughter-in-law Genevieve Sommer said.
Her devotion to the piano and to her son sustained her through two years in a Nazi prison camp, and a film about her has been nominated for best short documentary at next week’s Academy Awards.
An accomplished pianist, Alice Herz-Sommer, her husband and her son were sent from Prague in 1943 to a concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezin – Theresienstadt in German – where inmates were allowed to stage concerts in which she frequently starred.
An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent to Terezin and 33,430 died there. About 88,000 were moved on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most of them were killed.
Alice Herz-Sommer and her son, Stephan, were among fewer than 20,000 who were freed when the notorious camp was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.
Though she never learned where her mother died after being rounded up, and her husband died of typhus at Dachau, in her old age she expressed little bitterness.
Alice Herz-Sommer was born on November 26, 1903, in Prague, and started learning the piano from her sister at age 5.
As a girl, she met the author Franz Kafka, a friend of her brother-in-law, and delighted in the stories that he told.
Alice married Leopold Sommer in 1931. Their son was born in 1937, two years before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Jews were allowed to shop for only half an hour in the afternoon, by which time the shops were empty. Most Jewish families were forced to leave their family apartments and were crammed into one apartment with other families, but her family was allowed to keep its home.
In 1942, her 73-year-old mother was transported to Terezin, then a few months later to Treblinka, an extermination camp.
In 1949, Alice Herz-Sommer left Czechoslovakia to join her twin sister Mizzi in Jerusalem. She taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory until 1986, when she moved to London.
Alice Herz-Sommer’s son, who changed his first name to Raphael after the war, made a career as a concert cellist. He died in 2001.
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