Alice Herz-Sommer, Beethoven, Chopin, concentration camp, Dachau, Holocaust, Jews, London, Malcolm Clarke, National Socialists, Nazis, Nick Reed, piano, Prague, prisoner, propaganda, The Algemeiner, The Lady in Number 6, Theresienstadt, Zach Pontz
At 109 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer can make multiple claims: she is the world’s oldest pianist, as well as its oldest Holocaust survivor. Now she’s also a leading lady, the centerpiece of a film charting her remarkable life, The Lady in Number 6.
Herz-Sommer lives alone in a tiny flat in central London to this day, sitting down daily at her piano, practicing her beloved Bach and Beethoven. But her life wasn’t always so pleasant.
When thirty-nine, Herz-Sommer was sent, along with her six-year-old son Raphael, to Theresienstadt, the concentration camp near Prague used by the Nazis as a propaganda set depicting good treatment of the Jews of Europe during their campaign of terror. There she entertained prisoners and Nazis alike, playing Bach and Chopin along with other musicians forced into captivity.
Despite her ordeal, and despite the fact that her husband Leopold perished in Dachau, Herz-Sommer has been able to maintain a buoyant personality in the years since.
“She just on all things has this philosophy that is incredibly positive. She’s just naturally, instinctively somehow along her journey picked up this process where her brain is always in a positive loop,” said the film’s producer, Nick Reed.
“People who have seen the film are just amazed that this woman has been able to take something like the Holocaust and turn it into a positive,” Reed adds. “I think the experience was really able to show her what matters, which is your health and human relationships. There’s no malice, no hatred, no negativity, everything is just processed into the beauty of the world.”
Reed and Oscar-winning director Malcolm Clarke have compiled a short film, using rare archival footage and interviews, that not only showcases Herz-Sommer’s sanguine approach to the world, but also her passion for music, an artistic medium she refers to in the film as her “God.”
“It started off as an exploration of this amazing woman and what you realize along the way is that she’s even more amazing, ” Reed says.