lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.”
― Nelson Mandela
One of my fellow writers posted an article on our social network about the truly amazing 109 year old pianist, Alice Herz Sommer. Immediately, it moved me to tears and set the tone for my entire writing and research day. Ms. Herz Sommer is not only the oldest pianist in the world but the oldest Nazi Holocaust survivor. The video above is taken from the documentary of her inspirational story, The Lady in Number 6 by Oscar winning filmmaker Malcolm Clark.
Alice was born in 1903 and grew up in a loving, cultured family which was part of the German-speaking Czech-Jewish assimilated society. Alice's mother had been a childhood friend of Gustav Mahler and incredibly enough, Alice herself was playmates with writer Franz Kafka. Soon her enchanted secure world of writers, composers and artists would be destroyed by the Holocaust. As a child Alice grew up in a society that revered art, artists and great literature. It was a world where a concert, opera or book review made front page news in major newspapers. (Source:http://nickreedent.com/about/)
Alice suffered as no human being should ever have to suffer as she witnessed both her mother and her husband put aboard the trains to Auschwitz. During the filming of the documentary it was reported that she spoke of those times with an absence of hatred or malice, a quiet grace won the hearts of all who came in contact with her. Alice believed and still believes today that hatred only eats away at the soul.
Along with her six-year-old son, Raphael, Alice was imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. It is stated that her most haunting memories were her feelings of helplessness and the inability to feed her child. Her son had so many questions about why they were at the camp and why so many people were being subjected to the indescribable nightmare of the Holocaust. Questions she and so many others are still unable to answer. Why? Her strength and resilience was sustained by the depth of her sincere love of playing and listening to music.
And it’s from music that Alice derives her supreme optimism,
“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.”