Everything Is a Present

The inspiration behind an Oscar-nominated documentary, Alice Herz-Sommer passed away a week before the Academy Awards at age 110.

The inspiration behind the Oscar-nominated short documentary, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Alice Herz-Sommer passed away a week before the Academy Awards at age 110. She was the oldest living Holocaust survivor. This video below displays her unceasing optimism and zest for life.

Comments (38)

(21) Jennie Leslie, October 11, 2015 8:24 PM

Humanity at its best

What a magnificent woman, a lesson to us all.

(20) taylor crump, November 25, 2014 8:12 PM

i agree with this because it helps with everything

i think that this is a really good comment

(19) Wassim, February 28, 2014 11:59 AM

108 years of Sh'ma

As she said, "I knew about the bad, but I looked for the good".
The good music can make you feel like the artist's muse, giving you a sense of companionship when you're alone. And when the theme strikes a chord with your current state of mind, a simulated empathy manifests in the mind of the listener. Whereas the bad music can make you sick. And the choice of what you allow your ears to consume is yours. I don't know if there is already, but there should probably be a kashrut guide to music. Probably safest to stick with Hassidic Hits Vol 1-6. :-)

(18) Lilian Uziel, February 28, 2014 4:21 AM

Extraordinary email and person

(17) Anonymous, February 27, 2014 1:16 PM

Music is her religion.

We can never know what people endured through this terrible part in our collective history. One cannot judge and interpret what went on through this courageous woman's life. However, the phrase: "Music is my religion." Should not be contextualized. It is what, sadly many do to justify and withstand the psychological turmoil that they faced through this period. Our 'religion' is worship of the Creator of the Universe, G-d. We do not worship music, we do not value music in-of-itself, no matter how helpful it was in affecting the lives of people. Music is a means to a goal - the goal of coming close to Hashem. This woman did not find comfort, solace and help in the religion of her ancestors - her people - the very fact that she was Jewish, was a burden, an unhelpful piece that made her life difficult. She overcame it because she was a superb, person who sought the positive in everything. Commendable yes, Torah-based no. We value gratitude and other good traits, because they are Divine - they are from G-d. We live up to the ideal of being close to G-d, we try to emulate Hashem, in every action, which can only be achieved through Torah and Mitzvah observance. This woman was an inheritor of that tradition, and instead of praising G-d, praised the music. Disappointing at best. Idolatry at worst.

Anonymous, February 28, 2014 11:13 PM

Yes. I agree with you.

Hinda, October 6, 2015 9:51 PM

I too agree with your comment but the rabbis say that we can't judge any1 who went through the Holocaust. In fact the Torah says that we should judge EVERYONE FAVOURABLY!!!

Marc, March 9, 2014 9:47 PM

'Anonymous' Needs To Re-think her views

How very sad that this 17 year old has such strong views so early on in life. Strong, annoying, opinionated views which I doubt could be altered for the better - I think it's too late for someone who is thinking in this manner already. It's a pity they he/she can't be as positive and forgiving as this incredible lady - a true example of how to try to be and to live in the present. Alice was entitled to whatever her religious views were (which I assume must cover more than one sentence shown here). I'm sorry to say that this person has totally missed 'the point'. Disappointing at best. Ignorant at worst.

taylor, November 25, 2014 8:11 PM

i agree with this comment

(16) Judy K, February 27, 2014 1:58 AM

Alice was like a stain glass window her beauty shone from within

Thank you for this beautiful portrayal of Alice, a lady whose wisdom is timeless, smile catching and heart somethiing to behold and learn from. I am richer for the story and to have been given a glimpse into what
G-dliness looks like. We are born in the likeness of G-d do we have to claim we are religious for G-d to shine through us? I think Alice is proof...

(15) Anonymous, February 27, 2014 1:52 AM


An inspirational lady, this interview taught me about gratitude.
Thank you

(14) Shoshana-Jerusalem, February 26, 2014 6:43 PM


I didn't say that Alice wasn't religious. Listen to the video again. Alice said about herself that she was not religious. She said that music is her religion.

If she used the music to express her praise of G-d, that 's beautiful and a very high level of praise. I didn't know that because G-d's name wasn't mentioned in this particular video.

If she kept the 10 Commandments, as Michaela said, then she was religious, because that means that she was a Sabbath observer . So I don't understand why she said about herself what she did.

I also said that there is a lot to learn from Alice and that I took notes to review those things. She certainly was huge and kind and truly amazing, as I wrote in my previous comment.

(13) Shoshana-Jerusalem, February 25, 2014 5:10 PM


Allice Herz Sommer, may she rest in peace, was truly one of the most amazing people I have ever heard about and we can really learn a lot from her.

Some readers have written in that it is too bad that she wasn't religious and others wrote that no one has a right to judge her or feel superior.

The people who feel sorry that she was not religious are not judging her, for who can judge another, and certainly not a survivor. Also they do not feel superior and those who think they do have misunderstood their comments.

It simply is a heartache that this great woman did not have the proper education or understanding to realize Who saved her, and thank Him. It is also a heartache that she did not realize or know about keeping the Commandments that every Jew was commanded to keep on Mt. Sinai.

But none of the religious people who mentioned this were judging her for this. And if you will carefully reread their posts you would see this clearly, that they were just saying that is it heartbreaking.

I myself am very impressed by Alice, and jotted down some notes to review, because there is so much to learn from her, and to incorporate into my own life, but at the same time as I read her story I felt very bad for her.

And by the way, I feel sorry for every Jew, no matter who he/she is, who has left H-shem out of his/her life.

Michaela, February 25, 2014 10:52 PM

I knew Alice, not being religious,she kept the 10 Commandements

I knew Alice in Terezin and years afterwards,she taught me to play piano, I was a very good friend of her son (before 13 yrs deceased) .She was an admirable personality. She was not religious, but a human beeing with high morals-and what are the Commandments about ? About morals! In her heart of hearts she was always Jewish- and lived a Jewish fate : she survived Holocaust, she had many Jewish friends, for years she lived in Israel. She lost her husband in the Holocaust, but she kept her son and her music, that is all what she needed to live. I would say that music was her way to pray and praise Hashem

Anonymous, February 26, 2014 12:11 AM

She was the most religious person I admire

When a woman such as Alice Herz-Sommer can forgive her enemies, maintain her optimism, and make her music her religion which for me was her way to express her praises to G-d.
She is an example for all of us of what I call pure religion, not tainted by man's opinions or rules, but a gift of music she was able to share to the world.

Meira Shayna, February 26, 2014 9:47 AM

Ps 23 - for Alice

Shoshana-Jerusalem - Read more - learn more.
Alice was HUGE and kind and more religious than you will ever be!
G-d was very good to Alice -- and deservedly so.
Don't feel sorry for anyone, except yourself.
RIP - dear Alice!

(12) Tammy, February 25, 2014 12:02 AM

Playing for the King

In the presence of God praising Him with the gift He gave her. I can see all of God's heavenly Angels listening in AWE.

(11) virginia cano, February 24, 2014 12:22 PM

Her wisdom, ver voice through the videos and her music accompanied me through some of the toughest parts of my life. Her outlook in life inspired me to overcome personal problems and life-trathening illness. I am not Jewish, yet her life, and her wisdom touched my heart and my life. I am so sorry she has passed away. May she rest in peace.

(10) Rosena Riphin, April 18, 2013 1:18 PM

She is a blessing to the world

We should all learn from this powerful woman. She is full of wisdom and inner strength we can all learn from her life experience. This is truly inspirational.

(9) Anonymous, April 11, 2013 8:33 PM

thankful to whoom?

thankful to whoom? without hashem it has no meaning.

Ruthiel, April 19, 2013 12:01 PM


I am religious, but I dont think that people without religious perspective are necessarily living a false life. This lady has a beautiful neshama and can be in many ways more rightous than us religious. Not everybody was taught and had an opportunity to embrace Yiddishkeit, but thinking that we religious are better than non religious is not only wrong in my opinion, but also dangerous. The second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of the hatred amongst the Jews. Chazal said that the Jews would be forgiven even idolatry by Hashem if they only felt Ahava Yisroel. (it does not say we all have to be religious)

Anonymous, May 1, 2013 2:59 PM

Ahavas Yisroel

It made me sad to see the thankfulness without Hashem - and this has nothing to do with ahavas yisroel. True ahavas yisroel would mean that any Jew who is missing Torah should break your heart. Not that they are not incredible, and it's not up to us to decide their worthiness or their Olam Habah. But how sad the she is so strong and so special and yet not privileged to have Hashem in her life. Not recognizing that means you dont understand Hashem. and in that case, certainly dont understand Ahavas Yisroel

Yehuda, August 13, 2013 9:21 AM

Right on Ruthiel

How can anyone judge this person it disgusts me when so called Torah people think they have the blueprint for Hashem it just shows that they don't know That they don't even know

SH, February 25, 2014 7:32 PM

Love of Life

Without a love of life, being religious has no meaning.

(8) ADMIRER, April 11, 2013 2:54 PM

be thankful for everything God gives you

Learn learn learn and be thankful b'cos everything is a present and she goes on to say, she is Jewish without religion.
i think this woman is still very beautiful!!!.

(7) Anonymous, April 11, 2013 2:34 AM

there is diferents ways to be persecuted, you can have the whole freedom but be on prison of your fears in life. What I learned from these women was her optimism, we all need that in life.

(6) Chana, April 8, 2013 7:42 PM

A valuable commodity

What a wonderful and talented pianist Alice Herz-Sommer is! And that is exactly why she, today, is still able to tell us of her positive outlook on life, because Alice was a priceless commodity to the Nazi murderers:
Alice was no doubt keeping them spellbound with her professional concerts because the Nazis loved nothing more than classical music and were famous for "sparing" anyone who could be of use to them, especially musicians!
That fact and the fact that she was "lucky" enough to wind up in Teresienstadt, the Model Prison of the Third Reich, saved her and her son's life..........
And although I admire Alice for her positive outlook and her ever-present smile it will be good to remember that she most likely received priviliged treatment at the hands of the Nazis, simply because she was a valuable commodity to them. Had the "timing" been different, this talented pianist would have most likely wound up on a direct transport into Auschwitz-Birkenau without a chance to tell her Nazi captors about the fact that she was a gifted pianist and therefore able to provide them with hours of gracious entertainment, free of charge! Many victims were talented musicians or skilled workers but they were not fortunate to be given the opportunity to make their talents known, so they were not given the opportunity to survive. Alice must have been a brilliant pianist indeed, because if her recitals would not have measured up to the demands of her audience, she would most certainly not be here today and tell us about her good fortune and her survival!

L., April 9, 2013 9:02 AM

"And although I admire Alice for her positive outlook... it would be good to remember ...."

Every single survivor can pin point "something" that allowed them to survive. A "right" selection; a small privelage of working in the kitchens; a coincedence here or there; being at the right place at the right time, managing to survive where others didn't. It's not the circumstances - it's the person. Because many who suffered terribly look at those "coincidences" and focus on the good that allowed them to survive. And just as many didn't. So I don't think it's fair to say that the only reason she could have stayed positive is b/c she wasn't in the same situation as most others. This lady has a positve outlook period! If she had been in a Auschwitz and survived, she would have found the good in whatever had allowed her to survive THERE and focused on that instead!

Pinchas, April 10, 2013 2:06 AM

Well said

Thank you for saying what I was thinking.

(5) MARIA DODOC, April 8, 2013 7:36 PM


'Everything is a present'.Thank You!

(4) R.A.Y.S., April 8, 2013 4:58 PM

Who Will Live & Who Will Die?

I feel sad for this woman as her music is her religion. There isn't even one acknowledgment that it was through the Almighty's mercy and not the music that kept her alive. The real present is that she's still alive as a living testimony that we Jews are resilient & cannot be just snuffed out by anyone.

Ann, April 8, 2013 6:49 PM

For whom, really, should we feel sad?

As a fellow musician, and a baby at age 60, I understood perfectly that Mrs. Herz Sommer has no need for lessons in "religion" for she is in HaShem's Arms and enjoys the rapture He has blessed her to know--and play for others. Thank you dear Lady, you make all Jews proud. You've set His Love to music.

Gary, April 8, 2013 9:49 PM

Music is from God

Music is part of God's Love

Anonymous, April 9, 2013 9:04 AM

The music IS what G-D sent her as a gift to keep her alive!

Beth, April 9, 2013 3:51 PM

True but...

Music is a gift from G-d and it's incredible how she is so positive but it would be wonderful if she knew how to focus her gratitude and be grateful to the One who gave her the gift!

(3) Naftali Schiff, April 8, 2013 12:17 PM

I have been privileged to visit Alice mnany times. The last was a few hours before seder night with my 13 year old son. Alice personifies Jewish hope for the future. She is one of the most positive people i have ever met. we have much to learn about positivism, joi de vivre and appreciation of every tiny thing in life from this wonderful lady

(2) Paul Efron, April 8, 2013 10:37 AM


This 'young lady' has found the SECRET to LIFE!!-A grateful EVER THANKFUL ATTITUDE

(1) Dr. Alex Pister, April 8, 2013 4:17 AM

My kind of gal

Now thats incredible.


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