The oldest living survivor of the Nazi Camps, Alice Herz-Summer will celebrate her 106th birthday.She credits music and optimism for saving her life and the life of her son.
In 1943, at 39 Alice was ordered to leave Prague. Alice, her husband and their 6 year old son, Raphael were herded on to a train and sent to a Nazi "show camp" Terezin-Theresienstadt. In order to convince Red Cross inspectors that inmates were cared for, Jews at Terezin-Theresienstadt. were allowed to stage concerts.Alice and her son were kept alive to make music. Broken, starving inmates listened and were transported into another realm where they received nourishment for their spirits, the music reminded them that there was still beauty in the world.
Though most of Alice's relatives were killed by the Germans, Alice does not hate them, she says that most Germans are beautiful people and what heppened was a part of the evil of the world that occurs in many places, that's all. "I never hate,hatred brings only hatred", says Alice.She recognizes through the wisdom of age, that retribution is an endless cycle in which eventually we have trouble telling the victim from the perpetrator."Only when we are so old, only then we are aware of the beauty of life."
In a short film of her life, Dancing Under the Gallows, Alice says that spiritual food may be more important than actual food. "Music (and in the catagory she includes art and writing) is God. In difficult times you feel it, especially when you are suffering."
Amazingly, Alice feels that her life was made richer by being in the Nazi camps because of what she learned. Her experience there has given her a bottom line that makes the vicissitudes of life "maybe not so bad".
"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".
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Dancing Under the Gallows