Honorary Artistic Director
Alice Herz-Sommer (1903 – 2014)
Yesterday morning, Sunday, February 23, Alice Herz-Sommer died in London at the age of 110. We mourn the passing of our beloved Honorary Artistic Director. She was an extraordinary human being, a true mensch!
For two years, Alice Herz-Sommer was imprisoned in the ghetto and concentration camp Theresienstadt. She had to endure the terror of the Nazi Regime and personally lived through the horror of the Holocaust. But despite all these dreadful experiences she remained a steadfast optimist to the very end. Her love for her fellow human beings and for life in general was a source of inspiration for everyone who met her. Yet, she was not out of touch with reality. She always pointed out: “I know there is bad in the world, but I look for the good.” Her constant search for the good sparked the good in everyone else around her. She was a bright light and a shining example of humanity.
Without Alice Herz-Sommer, the world will be poorer.
We at Elysium – between two continents and The Lahr von Leitis Academy & Archive feel very glad and privileged to have known her. For many years, Alice Herz-Sommer was a wonderful Honorary Artistic Director. She always was interested in what we were doing and curious to know how our educational programs were received, especially by the younger generation.
In our hearts and minds Alice Herz-Sommer will continue to live!
-Gregorij H. von Leitis
Alice Herz was born on the 26th of November 1903 in Prague. As a young girl she met the composer Gustav Mahler, and Uncle Franz (the author Franz Kafka) was a family friend. Early on her talent as a pianist was discovered, and already at age 20 she gave public recitals.
In 1931 she married Leopold Sommer. Six years later their son Stephan (Raphael) was born. In 1943, the young family was deported from occupied Prague to the ghetto and concentration camp Theresienstadt.
The Nazis used Theresienstadt for propaganda purposes. To the outside world it was presented as a “model ghetto.” For that reason they allowed the presentation of concerts, operas and theater performances inside the camp. These artistic programs were presented by the so-called “Freizeitgestaltung” (Leisure Organization). In Theresienstadt, Alice Herz-Sommer gave about 100 concerts. Music saved her life – as she later would frequently say. Shortly before the end of the war Alice’s husband died of typhoid fever. But she and her son survived.
In 1947, the two emigrated to Palestine. In the newly created state of Israel, Alice became a founding member of the Academy in Jerusalem and taught at the Jerusalem conservatory. In 1986 she moved to London to be close to her son Raphael – by now a famous cellist – and his family. She took residence in a small studio apartment in Belsize Park, played the piano every day and recieved visitors from around the world, in particular young students who were doing research on Franz Kafka.
On February 23, Alice Herz-Sommer peacefully passed away, surrounded by her family.
“I know there is bad in the world, but I look for the good.”
“Wherever you look, there is beauty everywhere.”
– Alice Herz-Sommer