Monday, November 26, 2012 – Alice Herz Sommer celebrates her 109th birthday. Living alone in a small London apartment, this amazing woman is the world’s oldest living holocaust survivor. A former concert pianist, Alice has been playing the piano since she was five years old. Using only eight fingers, Alice still practices for hours every day. Alice’s story is a testament to the power of the human spirit. She and her six-year old son survived two years in the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt, escaping almost certain death. She has witnessed unspeakable cruelty, watching hundreds go to their deaths in the gas chambers or through sickness and starvation. And yet, this living hero has never stopped smiling. This ever-laughing centenarian credits her longevity to a lifetime of optimism.
In commemoration of Alice’s 109th birthday, I would like to share with you some of the wisdom of Alice Herz Sommer – gained from living nearly 40,000 of the most richly textured days.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Education
School is only the beginning; we can learn all our lives.
No one can rob your mind.
Education of the children is the most important family value.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Friendship
I love people. I am interested in the lives of others.
Understanding of others can lead to peace.
We do not need things, friends are precious.
Be kind, kindness is free, it costs you nothing, and the rewards are great for everyone.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Laughter
A sense of humor keeps us balanced in all circumstances, even death.
Laugher is wonderful. It makes you, and everyone else feel happy.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Life
We need to treasure time. Every moment that passes is gone forever.
Only when we are old do we realize the beauty of life.
Everything we experience is a gift. Everything is a present.
I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Marriage
In marriage, friendship is more important than romantic love.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Motherhood
How can any woman ever be unhappy after she has seen her infant’s first smile?
It was my greatest privilege to raise my son.
A mother’s love is a child’s only fortress against the world, come what may.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Music
I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician.
Children must study music, it helps with everything in life.
Music saved my life and music saves me still.
There was no food. Music was our food. Through music we were kept alive.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Optimism
My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now.
Always look for the good things in life: the world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and miracles.
When you are optimistic, when you are not complaining, when you look at the good side of your life, everybody loves you.
Every day in life is beautiful – if we only look up from our reality.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Parenting
Reason with your children, never use harsh words.
Patience, kindness and love, this is the food a child needs.
To survive, a child must never, never doubt your love.
Children need unconditional love to grow and develop into full human beings.
School is important, but what children learn in the atmosphere of their homes lasts for life.
Alice Herz Sommer – To Single Women
Have sex. Have fun. Have someone in your life, but don’t tie yourself down in marriage. Cherish your freedom… Take care of your career, your life.
Alice Herz Sommer – On Work
Love to work. When you love your work, you are never bored. Boredom is unhealthy.
When we love our work, we can enjoy a sense of achievement, every small achievement.
Work is the best invention.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post ‘Today I’m Inspired by: Alice Herz Sommer‘ about Alice’s awe-inspiring life, and and some of the lessons we can learn from her. Very recently, I was contacted by Caroline Stoessinger, the author of ‘A Century of Wisdom‘ a touching biography of a Alice’s noteworthy life.
In honor of Alice’s 109th birthday, Ms. Stoessinger will be donating all the proceeds from the sale of her book to the Alice Herz-Sommer Scholarship Fund at the Music Academy of Jerusalem where Alice taught for 37 of her happiest years. Please consider buying and reading this wonderfully enriching biography of an extraordinary woman, and helping a worthy cause.