The Inspiring Alice Herz-Sommer – Dancing Under the Gallows (formerly)

**Update: Alice Herz-Sommer passed away on February 23, 2014 at the amazing age of 110. She is an amazing lady and a true inspiration to us all. Most recently, the documentary about Alice Herz-Sommer: “The Lady in Number 6” won an Oscar. You can watch a more recent interview of her here.

Alice Herz-Sommer

“I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.” ~Alice Herz-Sommer

Just watching and hearing Alice speak is inspiring. Getting to know her and what she went through is awe-inspiring. We’re excited to see the new documentary coming out about Alice Herz-Sommer (you can watch the official trailer below).

Original Movie Trailer for Dancing Under the Gallows
Alice Herz-Sommer Quotes

BBC Radio Interviews Alice Herz-Sommer

Alice turns 109 today (born November 26, 1903) and is the oldest survivor of the holocaust and the second oldest person living in London, England. She was a renowned concert pianist and a close friend of Franz Kafka. She has seen and lived through more than you can imagine. And despite all she’s experienced, her extraordinary optimism and attitude is what stands out the most.

Dancing Under the Gallows Trailer


You can read the transcript of this trailer here.

Some of our favorite Alice Herz-Sommer quotes:

“Music saved my life and Music saves me still.”

“I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my religion.”

“I have had such a beautiful life. And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love”.

“Only when we are so old, only then we are aware of the beauty of life.”

“Music is God. In difficult times you feel it, especially when you are suffering.”

“I never hate. Hatred brings only hatred.”

Here are a couple of older BBC Radio interviews with Alice Herz-Sommer:

Alice Sommer Interview Part 1 – BBC Radio

Alice Sommer Interview Part 2 – BBC Radio

Recent Interview With Alice – Choose to be Optimistic

Transcript of Dancing Under the Gallows Trailer

One of the big benefits of living in this block is having classical music beautifully played morning and afternoon. In fact, I know people who have been used to standing outside the building in the street listening to her…and just admiring her playing. And she still plays every day.

To the residents of this small apartment building in North London, Alice Sommer is simply the lady in number six.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
My world is music. I am not interested in anything else.

She has her health, her friends, and her music. And at 106, she feels she’s one of the luckiest people alive. Alice receives visitors every afternoon…people who come to hear her stories and learn from her experience.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
I love people. I love everyone…I love people. I love to speak with them. I’m interested in the life of other people.

Alice is the oldest holocaust survivor in the world.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
Beethoven…he is a miracle. His music is not only melody…what is inside…what is inside…how it’s filled…it’s full. It is intensive…phenomenal.

In 1942, Alice was a well-known concert pianist living in Prague. At age 39, she was deported to the Nazi concentration camp. Theresienstadt was a purgatory for artists. Designed by the nazis to deceive the international community, it’s purpose was to show the world how well the jews of Europe were being treated by their nazi captors. Under constant threat of extermination, starving prisoners were permitted to paint, to perform and make music.

For propaganda purposes, Theresienstadt was the only camp in which children were not taken from their parents. Alice had been deported with her little boy, Raffi.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
I knew that we will play…and I was thinking when we can play it can’t be so terrible. The music, the music!

“Ahhh, here they are…”
“Ah, so how is it going?”
“This is my very good Sunday friend. She comes every Sunday.”

Alice’s friends are Danker and Aniter (sp?) are also holocaust survivors. And like Alice, music was essential to their survival in the camps.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
But if every day in life is beautiful, every day…you can speak about everything…it’s beautiful.

In Theresienstadt, Alice gave more than 100 concerts, performing all of Chopin’s Etudes from memory.

It was my first time actually I have heard all of Chopin’s Etudes. And I remember Alice sitting on the stage…I was in about the 3rd row, and saw her from the right profile. And I was quite captivated…it was magic to hear this music in that kind of surrounding…which you don’t realize until it’s over. So, you come back to earth and see where you are…and how much it was moral support and not entertainment…as most people think we were having fun. It had a much bigger value.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
I felt that this is the only thing which helps me to have hope…it’s a sort of religion actually. Music is…is God. In difficult times you feel it, especially when you are suffering.

Alice’s faith and inspiration were passed on to her son Raffi, who sang in Theresienstadt’s children’s opera, Brundibar. Alice’s undiminished optimism gave him strength…and he too survived.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
We are sleeping on the mattress, in fact my body. When a child is near to the mother, everything can happen…he is not afraid. It gives him a security. And I was always loving…even there I was loving.

So the people who were sitting in the audience, we were transported to a different time…the time before, when we lived in a normal civil life, civilized well, and hoping and being convinced that the war will soon finish and we will go back home and it will go on. But of course, what we knew later, the Germans knew full well, that we are sentenced to death, and thought…let them play…let them laugh. The laughter will soon vanish from their face…and we were dancing under the gallows.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
Sometimes it happens that I am thankful to have been there because this gave me a…I am richer than other people. My reaction on life…to despite another one, oh to complain, “this is terrible,”…It’s not so terrible.

My father always used to say the very wise words, “Put as much as you can into your heads because it’s something nobody can take away from you.” And I think that is so very very true. And I think this is where music comes in…the importance of music…because you can actually have music in your head without anybody knowing it is happening. You can actually go into another world, which is a lot nicer than the world we’re actually living in.

I can say without hesitation that the cello saved my life because I knew what was going in Auschwitz. So, I arrived in Auschwitz really preparing to go in the gas chamber. I mean that was Auschwitz, it was gas chambers. Instead of that, when arrived there…you people take your clothes of you, shave your head, and tattoo a number on your arm. And this is all number of prisoners. And one of these said, “What’s going on? How long is the war going? Where…” you know, so…”what’s your name? Where do you come from? What did you do before you were arrested?” And like an idiot I said, “I used to play the cello.”…you know, a really ridiculous thing to say. And he said, “Oh fantastic, you’ll be saved.” So, I became in my orchestra, which was completely lifesaving, because as long as they wanted music, they couldn’t put us in the gas chamber, you know. There’s a certain amount of logic in the Germans.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
A lot of German journalists come and want to know, speak with me so before they enter my room, they ask, “Are we allowed to enter your room? Do you not hate us?” So my answer is I never hate, never hate. Hatred brings only hatred.

Alice Sommer has lived her life without hatred. Nourished by the unquenchable power of music, she remains a beacon of hope and inspiration to everyone who knows her.

Alice Herz-Sommer:
I was born with a very very good optimism. And this helps you…when you are optimistic, when you are not complaining, when you look at the good side of our life…everybody loves you.

“Only when we are so old, only then we are aware of the beauty of life.”

You can read more about Alice, as well as buy this documentary for a discounted price, here: http://nickreedent.com/index.htm

Comments

  1. says

    Alice,

    Praise the LORD for the gift of music! May you come to know the creator of music JESHUA who is JESUS CHRIST the LORD who say: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the FATHER but by ME.”

  2. Jacki Mott says

    Alice truly inspirational Lady and her Sunday freinds. Happy 107 Birthday Alice!xx

  3. Anne Petersen Murdock says

    I watch this video often..It inspires me to be a better person. Alice is a jewel. She is a gift to me.

  4. Tricia says

    I am very priviledged to have discovered a very special person in this world, have a wonderful birthday celebration of your life Alice….sharing in playing the music that you and many others love :)

  5. Michael Eliastam says

    I am so pleased to have found you, again! Listening to you is inspiring, making growing older more understandable and welcoming.
    Have a wonderful day tomorrow!

  6. Michael Dube says

    Alice,

    I am truly inspired by you and your life. I am also sad by what you endured, a taste of the worst horrors of human existence. I am an Evangelical Christian, but struggle with why Our Lord let Satan dispense such atrocities on your people. In my life, I have a sister who died of cancer at 49, and a brother suffering of pancreatic cancer at 44. I accept Jesus’ will, but do not always understand it. Watching you play the piano at 107 with your smile and genuine love of people and life has provided me with a sense of peace that radiates God’s glory.
    Thank you, and may God Bless you.
    Mike

  7. says

    Alice, I am truly inspired by you and your life. I am also sad by what you endured, a taste of the worst horrors of human existence. I am an Evangelical Christian, but struggle with why Our Lord let Satan dispense such atrocities on your people. In my life, I have a sister who died of cancer at 49, and a brother suffering of pancreatic cancer at 44. I accept Jesus’ will, but do not always understand it. Watching you play the piano at 107 with your smile and genuine love of people and life has provided me with a sense of peace that radiates God’s glory. Thank you, and may God Bless you. Mike

  8. elizabeth jeffcoat says

    a friend of mine shared this with me. i was completely moved. thank you for making this site available.

  9. Roland says

    Thank you for keeping the worthiest 12 minutes on-line alive. This little documentary is a blessing. I can’t wait to share it with my family. How marvelous that Alice emerged from Nazi horror with her mind, soul, spirit, heart and artistry in tact. I’m sure that her dauntless joy and moral fortitude helped to shield and shelter her little boy as well. Hatred is only defeated by living and loving above it, and Alice is living proof of this potential. Her unscathed, unjaundiced view of the world is as miraculous as a biblical wonder. She is like Shadrach walking out of a furnace without a hair on his head singed or smoke in his garments, or like a latter day Daniel. When she says that life is beautiful every day, her face radiates that beauty. Those who love her should hear her in another clip where she performs a Schubert Impromptu with such tenderness and taste that you weep to have missed hearing her in her prime. God bless this dear lady and precious artist “ev-e-ry day, ev-e-ry day.” (Alice, when it comes to music being your only interest, Ich auch! Moi aussi! Yashar-koach b’shalom. And Todah Rabah! -Roland)

  10. says

    Dear Alice,
    You are a treasure to the world and an example of the human potential for forgiveness and love. Thank you for your long and beautiful life that is such a moving inspiration to me. When I posted your story on my FaceBook page, I remarked, “I want to be like Alice.” I can think of no better tribute. I wish you a happy 108th birthday on Saturday. God bless you.

  11. says

    How do you contact Alice??
    Love to write to her. Would be extremely thankful for an
    Address or contact information!!!!! Where does one obtain the film “Dancing Under the Gallows!!”

    Barbara Hassid 415: 307-1449
    2095 Ninth Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94116

  12. Colleen Clark says

    I have just discovered you Alice. I am to give a talk to a ladies faith group on “The Power of a Thankful Heart”. In my research, I found your story and will pass it on to the women who attend. You are such an inspiration and you truly have discovered God in your music. He is in every note, every melodious rapture of sound which wraps around your heart and mind. And to think that the music of this earth is a prelude to the experience of music in heaven. Thank you Alice, we can learn much from you. You have made beautiful music through your instruments of love and forgiveness that you bestow towards your fellow human beings.

  13. says

    Being a Jewish single mother with very little family left myself I found you such a true inspiration in many ways, you confirmed my optimism for me, and you really reminded me of some of my past wonderful relatives who although left this plane sometime ago, their memories are still as clear as day in my mind and heart. I would so love to meet you if at all possible, as in the Jewish culture we all know someone connected. G-d bless you for you are an amazing lady who I will always remember.

    Warm regards

    Susan Brady

  14. says

    Dear Alice, I have just sent you a message and having just read an article about you in the JC, I feel very drawn to you in an extremely strong way. I read further down that your son was called Stephan and my son has the same name! I am a spiritual person (and a Reiki Healer) and I feel I am supposed to meet you. I would really like to bring you some good home cooked jewish food if you would like, just let me know what your favourites are.

    Warm regards

    Susan Brady

  15. Julie Houck says

    This touched my heart on so many levels. I am a child of a Holocaust survivor. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. With so much gratitude, Julie

  16. denise weiss says

    what an inspiring story. If only there were more people like Alice in the world. A life well-lived.

  17. Dahlia villarreal says

    I am 3 yrs late writing this. I’m amazed and my 6th grade students were captivated. What a gift to see Alice’s smile transfer into little peoples faces. Miracle….

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