Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor and an expert pianist, died Sunday in London, her family said. She was 110.
“Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear ‘Gigi,’” her grandson, Ariel Sommer told Britain’s Press Association.
Two books were inspired by her life and a documentary about the accomplished pianist — “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” — is currently nominated for an academy award.
“We all came to believe that she would just never die,” said Frederic Bohbot, producer of the documentary. “There was no question in my mind, `would she ever see the Oscars,”‘ he said.
Herz-Sommer was born on Nov. 26, 1903, in Prague and began learning to play the piano at age 5. She married Leopold Sommer in 1931, and they had a son in 1937.
But the family was sent from their home in Prague to a concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezin in 1943. She often starred in concerts that inmates were allowed to perform.
“As long as they wanted music, they couldn’t put us in the gas chamber. There’s a certain amount of logic in the Germans,” Herz-Sommer says in the documentary.
About 140,000 Jews were sent to Terezin and 33,430 died there, according to the Associated Press. The camp was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945, but her husband died of typhus at another concentration camp. Herz-Sommer’s mother was sent to an extermination camp in 1942.
Still, Herz-Sommer showed little bitterness. “We are all the same,” she said. “Good, and bad.”
She taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory until 1986 and then moved to London, according to the Press Association.
“I think I am in my last days but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life,” she said on the documentary’s website. The Press Association reported that she spent her final days continuing to pursue her passion of playing the works of Schubert and Beethoven.