The Oldest Holocaust Survivor in the World


What’s it like to be born twice and have your second life last twice as long as the first? Alice Sommer Herz, the subject of Malcolm Clarke’s Oscar-nominated short documentary The Lady in Number 6, knew something about that. Sommer Herz, a Jewish pianist and, until she passed away on Sunday at 110, the oldest living Holocaust survivor, saw her concert career cut short when the Nuremberg Laws hit Prague. At age 39, she and her young son found themselves imprisoned at Theresienstadt, Eichmann‘s infamous “show ghetto.”

Seventy years later, Clarke and his crew find Alice in her London apartment, practicing the piano daily and crediting music with saving her life. Two of her friends and fellow survivors, an actress and a cellist, also credit their survival to their arts. “You can have music in your head,” one says, “and no one else knows it.”

At times, Clarke’s framing of Alice’s positive outlook can feel pat to a contemporary viewer—how can there not be a dark side to her joy? If the film can feel like a short-subject Life is Beautiful, it also reminds us that the Holocaust is not only, as Alice’s friend puts it, “gas chambers and the number six million” but “everything in between.”

Watch the trailer for the film:

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