Available in paperback
Alice Herz-Sommer 1903-2014
We were very sorry to learn of the death of Alice Herz-Sommer – her life was an inspiration to so many people and her legacy is that it will continue to be so. Rest in peace.
A collection of stories and life lessons from this most remarkable woman.
Until her death at 110 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer was the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor as well as the world’s oldest concert pianist.
Born in 1903 Prague to a family of Jewish intellectuals and musicians, Alice Herz-Sommer socialised with the likes of Kafka and Brod.
But in 1943, Alice, a prominent concert pianist, her husband and young son, were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Alice’s mother and husband perished, but Alice and her young son survived. Alice played more than 100 concerts for her fellow prisoners in the camp, giving them and herself comfort and hope. Her son was one of only 93 children (out of 15,000) to survive that camp.
A Century of Wisdom is a collection of Alice Herz-Sommer’s life stories and the lessons she took from them. Despite living through terrible experiences, her outlook was always one of understanding, optimism and joy.
Alice said, ‘only when we are old, do we realise the beauty of life – life is a present’.
A statement from the author:
Alice’s will to live was invincible. Regardless of her 110 years Alice’s death came too soon. Although her daily existence – living alone with her piano and a few mementos in a tiny cocoon-like apartment – was limited, Alice revered life itself and mused on its mystery and majesty. Alice did not waste time longing for what she did not have, rather she was grateful to take the good she found in the here and now.
Alice had no interest in materialism – things or awards. My feelings can only be expressed in music – the “Urlicht” from Mahler’s Second Symphony Alice loved so much. Alice was my mentor, muse and honorary President of the Mozart Academy. I founded …
Alice lived a profoundly spiritual life. Music was her language. She often said “I have lived my life in music. I will die in music.”
A witness to all of the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries and a survivor of Hitler’s unspeakable evil, Alice lived her life in a genuine state of forgiveness. “I hate no one. Hatred only brings more hatred”, she said. Alice practised a forgiveness that sanctions the forgiver to let go of implacable feelings and, rather than seek revenge, to make the most of one’s days on earth.
Alice’s life of transcendent humanity is her immortal legacy. Caroline Stoessinger February 2014
I have rarely read a Holocaust survivor’s memoir as enriching and meaningful.
– Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate
You will be inspired by the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, who lived to teach us.
– Gloria Steinem
A sweetly affecting collection
– Kirkus Reviews
Alan Rusbridger’s article on Alice February 2014.
Caroline Stoessinger knew Alice for several years. She is a prominent pianist and professor of music at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, producer of arts programmes and has served as artistic director of Legacy of Shoah Film Festivals in Prague and New York. She is working on a documentary film about Alice Herz-Sommer. She lives in New York.
Alice Sommer-Herz reflects on her life in the video clips below.