Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Mighty Girl

Please Note:  You never know if you have German  or Slavic Heritage, it could contain Eastern Jewish.  The Low German spoken by many of our relatives is very close to Yiddish.  REBENSDORF COUSINS:  One of the women who married one of our REBENSDORF Grandfathers was SOMMER.  SHAVLIK COUSINS:  Alice grew up in Moravia as did Apolina KRSKA mother of Stephen James SHAVLIK

To mark the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Week, we're sharing the incredible true story of Alice Herz-Sommer, who was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor and pianist until she passed away in London last year at the age of 110. Her story is told in the recent documentary, "The Lady in Number 6," which won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. As the film's producer, Nicholas Reed, writes: “Kids all over the world grow up on superheroes. What we, their parents, must remind them, is documentaries tell stories about ‘real superheroes.' Superheroes are based on great people, real people, like Alice Herz Sommer.”
Born in Prague in 1903, Herz-Sommer pursued a career as a classical musician until the Nazis prohibited Jews from performing in public. She then remained in Prague caring for her ailing mother, who was arrested and killed at the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942. The following year, Herz-Sommer was sent with her husband and 6-year-old son to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Theresienstadt was an unusual camp in that, although tens of thousands of people died there and many more were transported from there to extermination camps, it was also designated by the Nazis as a model camp for propaganda purposes. Many prominent Jewish artists and intellectuals were imprisoned there and permitted to maintain a cultural life. The Nazis would make films about life in the camp and, late in the war, allowed International Red Cross representatives to tour it in an effort to create the false impression that Jews were being treated humanely at their camps.
During her two years at the camp, Herz-Sommer played in more than 100 concerts. As she recounted in an interview, "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.”
In September 1944, her husband, Leopold, was sent to Auschwitz and later to Dachau where he died of illness. In May 1945, Herz-Sommer and her son were freed when the Soviet army liberated Theresienstadt. She later moved to Israel and worked as a professor of music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music for nearly 40 years until she emigrated to London in 1986 to be near her son.
Through it all, Herz-Sommer was known for her remarkably positive outlook on life. Toward the end of her life, she observed: "I think I am in my last days but it does not 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."
To learn more about Herz-Sommer's inspiring story, two books for adult readers were recently published about her life: "A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor"  and "Alice's Piano: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer".
You can watch an excerpt of the Oscar-winning documentary, "The Lady in Number 6," at  or stream the entire documentary on Vimeo.
There is also a book for ages 9 to 13 about the children of the Terezin-Theresienstadt camp and the art they created there under the direction of Austrian artist Frederika "Friedl" Dicker-Brandeis.
Hana's Suitcase" also tells the story of a young girl who took part in Theresienstadt art programs for ages 9 to 12,

Adapted from post and picture at A MIGHTY GIRL facebook page.  Our publishing this article does not mean we endorse this sight.

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