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World’s oldest known Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer dies aged 110

Alice Herz-Sommer with A Garden of Eden In Hell, a book exploring her life story. Picture: Polly Hancock. Alice Herz-Sommer with A Garden of Eden In Hell, a book exploring her life story. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Monday, February 24, 2014
1:33 PM

The world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor has died aged 110, her family have said.

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Alice Herz-Sommer, who lived in Belsize Grove, Belsize Park, was imprisoned in the camp in Terezin, or Theresienstadt, in Germany during the Second World War.

Ms Herz-Sommer, originally from Prague, was a talented musician and an adept pianist.

She is said to have counted esteemed existentialist writer Franz Kafka among her family friends and, more recently, was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary about her life.

The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, a 38-minute film, is up for best short documentary at the Academy Awards to be handed out next weekend.

Last night, her grandson, Ariel Sommer, said: “Alice Sommer passed away peacefully this morning with her family by her bedside.

“Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear ‘Gigi’. She loved us, laughed with us, and cherished music with us.

“She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side. We mourn her loss and ask for privacy in this very difficult moment.”

Writing on the film’s website, Ms Herz-Sommer said: “Music saved my life and music saves me still.”

She is said to have spent her final days continuing to play the works of Schubert and Beethoven at her home.

Speaking on the film’s website, she said: “I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my religion. I am no longer myself. The body cannot resist as it did in the past.

“I think I am in my last days but it doesn’t really matter because 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.”

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