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Malcolm Clarke's Film on Late Pianist Alice Herz-Sommer, 'The Lady in Number 6,' Wins 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary Short

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Mar 05, 2014 03:50 AM EST

Pianist Alice Herz-Sommer, who passed away a week ago at age 110, was the world's oldest Holocaust survivor. Malcolm Clarke's film about her, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short at the Academy Awards on Sunday night.

When Herz-Sommer and her young son were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II, she began playing with the prison camp orchestra. She gave more than 100 concerts during the years she was there. She and her son survived because the music-loving German officers who ran the camp enjoyed hearing her play.

The film describes her wartime experiences, but director Clarke ultimately decided to focus more on the person Herz-Sommer became after she was freed from the camp.

Most of her family, including her beloved husband, perished in the Holocaust. After the war ended, Herz-Sommer went to live in Israel, where she continued to play and teach the piano, eventually settling in England in 1986.

Far from becoming embittered about her wartime experience, in the years that followed, Herz-Sommer treasured each extra day she had been given.

"Sometimes it happens that I am thankful to have been there," she says of her time at the camp, "because this gave me a...I am richer than other people. When I hear them saying, 'oh, this is terrible'--no, it is not so terrible."

And Herz-Sommer continued to find joy in music, as she had always done. As the documentary shows, even at an extremely advanced age, she continued to play Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin, giving the viewers of this documentary a privileged glimpse into her joyous musical life.

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TagsAlice Herz-Sommer, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life, academy awards, oscar, Malcolm Clarke

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