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LONDON (AP) — Alice Herz-Sommer, who was believed to be the oldest-known survivor of the Holocaust, died in London on Sunday morning at the age of 110, a family member said. A film about her, The Lady in Number 6, has been nominated for best short documentary at next month’s Academy Awards.
Herz-Sommer’s devotion to the piano and to her son sustained her through two years in a Nazi prison camp. She died in a hospital Sunday morning after being admitted Friday, daughter-in-law Genevieve Sommer said.
An accomplished pianist, Herz-Sommer, her husband and her son were sent from Prague in 1943 to a concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezin — Theresienstadt in German — where inmates were allowed to stage concerts in which she frequently starred.
An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent to Terezin and 33,430 died there. About 88,000 were moved on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most of them were killed. Herz-Sommer and her son, Stephan, were among fewer than 20,000 who remained alive when the notorious camp was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.
Yet she remembered herself as “always laughing” during her time in Terezin, where the joy of making music kept them going.
“These concerts, the people are sitting there, old people, desolated and ill, and they came to the concerts and this music was for them our food. Music was our food. Through making music we were kept alive,” she once recalled.
Malcolm Clark and Nick Reed, the director and the producer of The Lady in Number 6, issued a joint statement on the passing of Herz-Sommer.
“Telling Alice’s story was a life changing experience for everyone who worked on the film,” read the statement. “Even as her energy slowly diminished, her bright sprit never faltered. Her life force was so strong we could never imagine her not being around. We are so proud to been so fortunate to capture Alice’s lessons for all the generations to come. We can all learn so much from this most amazing woman.”
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