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Transcript of Alice Hertz-Sommer
Alice was a pianist taught by her sister Irma. She continued to play piano after a family friend, who was also a pianist, Artur Schnabel, advised her to pursue a career as a classical musician. She studied at the Prague German Conservatory of Music. Alice was the youngest pupil in the school.
Alice's Life after the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Alice's son, Raphael, was one of the only children to survive being in the camp. Her husband died of Typhus in Dachau. Alice and Rapheal returned to Prague after the Soviet liberation of Theresienstadt in 1945. Later, in March 1949, they moved to Israel to be reunited with some of her family, including Mariana.
Alice lived in Israel for almost 40 years as she worked as a music teacher at the Jerusalem Academy of Music until moving to London in 1986. In London, Alice lived close to her family in a one-room flat in Belsize Park and was always visited by her close friends, her grandson, Ariel Sommer, and her daughter in law, Genevieve Sommer.
For three hours every day, Alice practised playing the piano.
Raphael died in 2001 at the age of 64 in Israel at the end of a concert tour, as he was an accomplished cellist and conductor.
Alice is Inspirational!
Alice has lived a hard life, but yet remained strong throughout it, as she had music to guide her along the way, and a son to raise. I think it's important to know what she has taught us about life.
Alice began playing concerts and getting out there with her music across Europe until the Nazis took over Prague.
After the invasion of Czechoslovakia, most of Alice's family and friends moved to Palestine/Romania, but Alice stayed in Prague to take care of her ill mother named Sophie, who was 72 years old. Her mother was arrested and killed. In July, 1943, Alice was sent to Theresienstadt, where she played in front of prisoners or guards. She played over 100 concerts there.
A quote from her experience of playing the concerts;
We had to play because the Red Cross came three times a year. The Germans wanted to show its representatives that the situation of the Jews in Theresienstadt was good. Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before. As we would have.
By Amy McLoughlin
8 Lessons To Live By From Alice.
Alice's mother had a love of learning and instilled in her children a desire to hungrily pursue knowledge, “to learn, to learn, to learn, to know, to know” Alice remembers. All through her life, it is the strength of Sommers’ mind that sustained her. She believes in putting something in your mind everyday that no one can take from you.
Be disciplined. Work hard-
According to Alice, “Work is the best invention, the best.” Even past the age of 110, playing the piano was still a discipline. It is not easy, and she had to play with only eight of her fingers. She said “It makes you happy to have something”. According to Alice, we must always be purposefully engaged. “The worst thing is life, in my opinion, is boredom – when people don’t know what to do with themselves”. Alice asserts, “boredom is dangerous”. When it comes to diet, Alice applies discipline, too. “For 30 years I have eaten the same, fish or chicken. Good soup, and this is all. I don’t drink, not tea, not coffee, not alcohol. Hot water.” As for exercise, even at her age, Alice said “I walk a lot with terrible pains, but after 20 minutes it is much better. Sitting or lying is not good.”
Alice’s strategy has not only been to think happy thoughts, but to show it by laughing. She was convinced this is what kept her young son alive, even as he witnessed daily atrocities for two years in the Nazi camps. “Everything is good and bad. So look at the good side and laugh.” “And I was always laughing – even there, I was always laughing.” Many people may have called Alice’s attitude fake along the way, or even accused her of being in denial, but Alice has had the last laugh, and the best.
Look inside yourself for strength-
Alice’s bond with her mother was so strong, that when Alice’s mother was taken away by the Nazis, she experienced grief that she thought would crush her. A small voice within told her that the strength to overcome would not come from outside help, not from her friends, her husband or her son. “You alone can help yourself”, Alice remembers stoically. She found that strength by rigorously practicing “for hours and hours” one of the most technically challenging pieces for any pianist, Chopin’s ’24 Etudes’. Her ability to master the difficult music led to her conquering her grief.
Complaining about a situation never ever changes it. Alice said: “All that complain, ‘This is terrible’, it’s not so terrible after all. Complaining changes nothing.” “When you are not complaining…everybody loves you.”
Be optimistic. Look for the good things-
Alice said “Every day in life is beautiful – if we only look up from our reality”.. Pessimists “wait for catastrophes, and sometimes the catastrophes come” she said, almost mockingly. “Always look for the good things in life: the world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and miracles.” Alice credits her longevity to her optimism, saying “this is the reason I am so old, I know about the bad things but I look only for the good things.” “I think about the good. That takes a lot of practice.”
When you know history – wars and wars and wars … It begins with this: that we are born half-good and half-bad – everybody, everybody. And there are situations where the bad comes out and situations where the good comes out.” Alice zealously expressed. “Never, never hate. I don’t hate the Germans. They are wonderful people, no worse than others. Evil has always existed and always will. It is part of our life.” As for Hitler, Alice dismissed him simply as “a madman”. “I never hate. I will never hate. Hatred brings only hatred.”
Be greatful- When asked what the greatest lesson of her life has been, Alice’s reply was “thankfulness”. “Be thankful for everything, being in good health, seeing the sun, hearing a nice word”, Alice advised. She lamented, “Young people take everything for granted… There is electricity, cars, telegraph, telephone, Internet. We also have hot water all day long. We live like kings.” Alice was even thankful for her experience in the camp. “I am thankful to have been there… I am richer than other people.” And to sum her 110 year, Alice said “I have had such a beautiful life”. And when asked about her philosophy of life in a nutshell, this peerless lady surmised simply: “Everything we experience is a gift. Everything is a present.”
Thank you! :)