Author(s): Caroline Stoessinger
At 108 years old, the pianist Alice Herz-Sommer is an eyewitness to history. She has seen it all, surviving the Theresienstadt concentration camp, attending Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem, and along the way coming into contact with some of the most fascinating historical figures of our time. As a child in Prague, she spent weekends and holidays in the company of Franz Kafka and Gustav Mahler, and Sigmund Freud and Rainer Maria Filke were friendly with her mother. When Alice moved to Israel after the war, Golda Meir attended her house concerts, as did Arthur Rubinstein, Leonard Bernstein and Isaac Stern. Despite her years of imprisonment, the murders of her mother, husband and friends by the Nazis and, much later, the premature death of her son, Alice has been victorious in her ability to live a life without bitterness. A CENTURY OF WISDOM is lessons from a remarkable and inspiring woman, and evidence of her lifelong determination - in the face of some of the worst evils known to man - to find goodness in life.
"A treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer's life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage."--"Booklist
"A survivor of Theresienstadt and a world-class Czech pianist shares her amazing story of survival and triumph. Now living in London since she relocated from Jerusalem to be closer to her only son (now deceased), Herz-Sommer is shortly turning 108, still playing the piano, disciplined and abstemious in her daily habits and fairly active, as Stoessinger records over interviews with her between 2004 and 2011. These are short segments that amplify important aspects of her life, such as her acquaintanceship as a young girl in Prague with Franz Kafka and his circle, her happy though too-brief marriage and successful early career as a concert pianist and teacher, the birth of her son in 1937 just as the Nazis were exerting their terror over the Jewish community in Prague and their abrupt deportation to Theresienstadt in 1943. ...[W]hat Stoessinger's work reveals startlingly and firsthand are details of life in the concentration camp, especially how the musicians coped with the horrible conditions and even formed a vibrant community. ... 'Every concert played there, ' Stoessinger writes, 'became a moral victory against the enemy.' ... Rounding out this work are memories from Herz-Sommer's students and friends, reflections on favorite authors such as Spinoza, Rilke and Zweig and even recipes."--"Kirkus Reviews"
"As if her 108 years of experience alone were not enough to coax you, there is the overarching fact that draws people to Herz-Sommer's story: She survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp and is believed to be the oldest living Holocaust survivor."--"The Washington Post"
"I have rarely read a Holocaust survivor's memoir as enriching and meaningful. Get Caroline
Caroline Stoessinger, a prominent pianist and artist-in-residence at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the founder and director of The Mozart Academy of New York, which provides high quality classical music instruction at no cost to immigrant children who have limited access to such opportunities. She is working on a documentary film about Alice Herz-Sommer. Alice Herz-Sommer lives in London.