A week after her passing at 110, a documentary on the Holocaust survivor wins Hollywood’s top award.
Film-maker Malcolm Clarke has won an Oscar for his documentary on Alice Herz-Sommer entitled The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life.
The film follows pianist Alice Herz-Sommer, at the time the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust. Paying tribute to Herz-Sommer, who died last week at the age of 110, Clarke dedicated his Oscar to the remarkable lady in recognition of “her extraordinary capacity for joy and amazing capacity for forgiveness.” Paying tribute to one of history’s great survivors he said “she taught everyone on my crew to be a little bit more optimistic.”
At the time of the documentary Herz-Sommer was 109-years-old and was the second oldest person living in London and the world’s oldest survivor of the Nazi Holocaust. Three years previously she had been the subject of a film by Christopher Nupen.
During the Second World War she saw her mother and her husband put on the transports to Auschwitz while she, along with her six-year-old son, Raphael, was imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Living alone in her tiny flat in central London she was shown at her piano, practicing her beloved Bach and Beethoven.
“I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son,” she says in the film, “yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.”
Knowing that her time was strictly limited, Herz-Sommer says in the documentary, “I am no longer myself. The body cannot resist as it did in the past. I think I am in my last days but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life.” She then reiterates what had become the mantra by which she lived her life: “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.”
Alice, who played more than 100 concerts inside the concentration camp was adamant that music preserved her sanity and her life. That she is now (by default) the recipient of an Oscar would no doubt have been as gracefully accepted as it would have been utterly bewildering to this modest and unassuming lady.