Alice Herz-Sommer, who was believed to be the oldest-known survivor of the Holocaust, died in London on Sunday morning at the age of 110, a family member said. A film about her has been nominated for best short documentary at next month's Academy Awards.
Herz-Sommer's devotion to the piano and to her son sustained her through two years in a Nazi prison camp. She died in a hospital Sunday morning after being admitted Friday, daughter-in-law Genevieve Sommer said.
An accomplished pianist, Herz-Sommer was sent along with her husband and her son 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. Herz-Sommer and her son, Stephan, were among fewer than 20,000 who remained alive when the notorious camp was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.
Yet she remembered herself as "always laughing" during her time in Terezin, where the joy of making music kept prisoners going.
"These concerts, the people are sitting there, old people, desolated and ill, and they came to the concerts and this music was for them our food. Music was our food. Through making music we were kept alive," she once recalled.
The Associated Press