24 Feb 2014

Oldest survivor of Holocaust dies

7:06 pm on 24 February 2014

The oldest known survivor of the Nazi Holocaust has died in London, aged 110. Alice Herz-Sommer spent two years in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Born into a Jewish family in Prague in 1903, she spent two years at the camp in Terezin and had to face some of the worst events of the 20th century.

Her husband Leopold Sommer died in the Dachau concentration camp, but she remained an optimist with a faith in humankind, the BBC reports.

Ms Herz-Sommer knew the writer Franz Kafka as a family friend and was taught piano. When she played, she said she was with God.

At Theresienstadt she was allowed to play, which made her think the camp would not be so bad, but was lucky to get out alive with her young son Stefan, who she said had helped her to survive.

They were among fewer than 20,000 people who were freed when Terezin was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.

An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent there and 33,430 died. About 88,000 were transported on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most were killed.

Later, the accomplished pianist and music teacher taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory until 1986, when she moved to London.

A film about her life has been nominated for best short documentary at the Academy Awards in March.

"We all came to believe that she would just never die," said Frederic Bohbot, producer of the documentary, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

Ms Herz-Sommer is said to have continued playing the works of Schubert and Beethoven until her final days.