A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor
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A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor

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3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  95 reviews
An inspiring story of resilience and the power of optimism—the true story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor.

At 108 years old, the pianist Alice Herz-Sommer is an eyewitness to the entire last century and the first decade of this one. She has seen it all, surviving the Theresienstadt concentration camp, attending the trial of Adolf Eichman...more
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Published March 20th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Brenda
When Alice Sommer was a young woman, she was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp along with her six-year-old son Rafi and husband Leopold. A hugely successful concert pianist in Czechoslovakia her music, she feels, saved her life. In the camp she was able to keep Rafi with her because of his age, but Leopold was taken to the men's side of the camp. She never saw him again.

The devastation of not being able to keep Rafi from hunger tore at her, but with him by her side she could keep hi...more
Jo
I both liked and was disappointed by this book. I think the title is misleading. Had they sent it out with a different title I may not have been disappointed. I picked it up, in part, because it was about the “world’s oldest Holocaust survivor” – if you’re looking for Holocaust survival stories, this book isn’t for you. I also picked it up because was titled “A Century of Wisdom” and was about a 108 year old woman – think of the history she’s seen! Alice Herz-Sommer is the oldest living survivor...more
Chrissie
Look at the complete title of this book. The book is more about Alice Herz-Sommer's life philosophy than the events that shaped that philosophy. She is the oldest living holocaust survivor. Yes, she is still living and will be 110 in November 2013. She and her son survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp. She has met many famous musicians, conductors, composers, philosophers, authors and politicians. She speaks of their accomplishments and how she came to know each of them. Kafka she met w...more
Elaine
Alice Herz-Sommer is a truly inspirational woman, who did not allow the atrocities and losses she experienced in the Nazi concentration camps to affect the rest of her life. She lived life to the fullest and was grateful for every single thing, whether big or small, she was given. We all can learn from Alice and live and be happy in the present. In Alice's own words " Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life,even to find joy.No...more
Laurel
At 109, Alice Herz-Sommer is the oldest living Holocaust survivor. She was born in Prague in 1903 and became an accomplished classical pianist by the time she was in her 30s. However, her life changed suddenly in 1942 when she and her family were seized by Nazi soldiers and placed in a concentration camp. There, her talents as a musician saved her life. The Nazis wanted to create a propaganda film in order to give the false impression that the Jews in their camp were being treated well. Herz-Som...more
Judith
In this biography, the author attempts to highlight the life and passions of Alice Herz-Sommers' journey as a 108-year old Holocaust survivor who credits her love of music for her living through the madness of Theresienstadt with her son, Rafi. Her talent surely had much to do with her survival as the Nazis used the camp and its musicians as an "example" of how well they were treating their enemies at the time. There are very bleak stories of Alice's times in the camp and her encouragement to he...more
Julie Ann Dawson
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book.

In our modern time of professional victimhood and taking offense at the most minute of slights, Caroline Stroessinger's A Century of Wisdom's greatest lesson may be that no one can diminish you without your consent. The book focuses on the remarkable life story of pianist Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor.

Strossinger details Herz-Sommer's early life Prague and her captivity at the Theresienstadt concentrati...more
Dolly
Apr 08, 2014 Dolly rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who enjoy reading biographies
This is an engaging biography of a woman who survived the holocaust, and was made famous in the Academy-award winning documentary, The Lady in Number 6, for being the oldest living holocaust survivor.

Her passion for music is the highlight of the book, as is her amazingly positive outlook on life and death. I have added to this review many of the memorable quotes from the book, but I must say that the book is just filled with inspirational messages.

The narrative is very enlightening and through...more
Denis Vukosav
Alice Herz - Sommer was the Prague child of wealthy parents, grew up in the circle of people that have marked the past century with their works such as Franz Kafka, Gustav Mahler, Reiner Maria Rilke, Martin Buber and others. Later, she was friend of Golda Meir, attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the greater part of her life spent teaching at the Conservatory of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. She is a woman who has experienced the greatest rewards that civilization can offer and sur...more
Kriegslok
A biography whose title sums up in short who and what it's all about. A fairly swift read and given the subject matter quiet a light work. Alice (a gifted pianist in pre-war Europe) speaks through the author Catherine Stoessinger who fills also descibes Alice's life from a middle class childhood in Czechoslovakia, to the Nazi showpiece concentration camp of Theresienstadt (where a Nazi admirer of her talent promised ALice and her son would appear on no deportation list) , the freedom of the earl...more
Jackie
I wanted to love this book. Unfortunately it didn't live up to its promise. While the reading was moderately interesting, there was nearly a complete lack of emotional involvement for me - even though it is clear that the author has a deep affection for her subject. Even the title felt misleading. I didn't think there were really any lessons shared, just some chapters lauding a person for her perseverance.

Alice lived an incredible life. Filled with amazing experiences, wonderful people and grea...more
Emily
In contrast to Alice's Piano, A Century of Wisdom is not chronological. Rather, it is a stirring collection of the lessons Professor Herz-Sommer has learned over her hundred-plus years on earth. It is astounding to me to read of her triumphs over her struggles, but even more so to read of her unfailing optimism and cheerful attitude. It’s also a testament to the resilience and power of the human will.

Since I can’t improve upon them, here are her own words:

“I love people. All kinds of people. I l...more
Holly Weiss
"I Never Give up Hope"

Encouraged by great musicians Gustav Mahler and Artur Schnabel and on the brink of a career as a pianist, Alice Herz-Sommer’s world crumbled in 1943. She, along with her husband and son, were deported to Theresienstadt. She survived the Holocaust and the loss of many family members and yet, celebrates life. Hers is a rich tapestry, woven with threads of hope, artistry, grace, courage and inspiration. The mystical, healing powers of music helped her transcend the horrors she...more
Jessica
This book is an account of the amazing life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor. Alice is now 108 years old and still plays piano for a few hours every day and lives alone. Alice grew up in Prague and her family was friends with famous artists and philosophers like Franz Kafka and Sigmund Freud. Alice had a career as a brilliant pianist and traveled all over Europe playing. Alice married her husband Leopold and they had one son, Rafi, when they were deported for Th...more
Deb
This is the story of a woman who survived the Therezienstadt concentration camp with her young son and how she has led her life with an indomitable spirit afterward. Alice Herz-Sommer was already a concert pianist when the war started and Germany invaded her Czech homeland. The Terezien camp was considered a "model" camp for Hitler to parade before the International Red Cross. So arts were allowed to flourish, even as the artists were starving and diseased and sent by the thousands to Auschwitz...more
Donna Jo Atwood
What an inspiring story! At 108 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer has learned the art of living well. This is a woman who has seen the tender, the tough, the sweet, and the bitter in life and yet she looks forward to new experiences and new days. She has a rich life with her music and her friends and delights in using her mind to the best of her abilities. Would that we were all so gifted.
Maryanne Gobble
I would very much like to know more of Alice Herz-Sommer's life but will have to look elsewhere. I tried so hard to finish this book and gave up with a few chapters to spare. The title is somewhat misleading as a large portion of the book is used to point out possible ties Alice had in her life to famous people and little space dedicated to 'a century of wisdom'.
Rachel
What I learned from this book: If you want to live to be more than 100, eat very little and drink lots of hot water.
Kirstjen
This book is written like a fan article. It minimally tells the life story of Alice Herz-Sommer who was the oldest living holocaust survivor. The story tells us what a wonderful person she was, but not why. She played & taught the piano. She was not a very deep thinker, was not a member of the resistance, was not critical of her government in Czechoslovakia or Israel in any discernible way. She lived through some horrible things, and she seemed to sort of float above the horror. Her longevit...more
Ruth
I bought this book because I enjoyed a TV documentary. My advice would be to stick to the documentary. Probably sacrilege to say it, but I found the book surprisingly irritating. Firstly, there's not much of Alice Herz-Sommer's wisdom: just sprinklings through the book and then a couple of pages with various comments brought together, such as "I am never tired because my mind is active."

I took against this book when the author (Caroline Stoessinger) used the word "immigrate" when she meant "emig...more
Sue
I saw the documentary about this woman and it inspired me so I bought the book to see what else might be included. She was someone who triumphed over tragedy, but she refused to look back to the past. She lived in the present which is what made her so happy. In addition, she was a concert pianist of the first class as a young woman and continued to practice more than 3 hours a day until she died. She lived until she was 110. What a great and inspiring life. I would have had even more admiration...more
April
Aug 18, 2012 April rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone because her story is one that everyone should read and needs to read!!
Alice Herz-Sommer is an amazing woman, and reading her story just fascinated me!!

How she could go through what she did in life and not have an ounce of hatred in her bones is a true testament to her character!! I don't know that I could do it!!

The following are a few of her quotes that are my favorite:

"I can say war only leads to war. Nearly every religion in the world says 'Thou shalt not kill," yet most religions kill in the name of God. Even Hitler's daggers said 'Gott mit uns.'"

"Every day is...more
Rdonn
This is the second book I've read about Alice Herz-Sommer, who turned 110 last week - the oldest Holocaust survivor. A remarkable woman whose career as a pianist had taken off in Czechoslovakia when Hitler and his thugs took over, and Jewish people were banned from almost all normal activities. She, her husband and 6-year old son were eventually deported to Terezin. Her sisters and their families had emigrated to Palestine just before that exit was closed, leaving Alice and her family to take ca...more
Yaritza
I won this book from GoodReads First Reads.I loved this book, because Alice Herz-Sommer is such a strong women. To have lost her Husband and Mother in the Holocaust and was able to raise her son after war. This was the first time I have heard of Alice and I was glad that I was able to have met her through this book, just like all those wonderful people she has touched by her music and her love for people. It was great to know that she doesn't dawn in the past but lives her life in the present in...more
Barbara
Usually I would end my book comments with a suggestion that the book be read.This is different....READ THIS BOOK!
I found it to be insightful into the era and FEELING of the times.The choices one makes in how we conduct out lives in the darkest of hours as well as the joys is a large part of why this book spoke to me.. A Century Of Wisdom speaks to what informs our belief in God and man.Above all We are reminded of the power of the arts,especially music.
Both Caroline Stoessinger,the author and A...more
Lenay
Alice is a miracle of a human being. The parts about Theresienstadt were horrifying of course...one of the most disturbing parts was the inside look at the way the Nazi's forced the prisoners to participate in a propaganda film. The horror of the Holocaust is just beyond words, sometimes reading about it is too much for me, but I know it is important to remember. I just had to take breaks when reading as it really got to me.
Astounding to me was learning that the prisoners produced and acted a c...more
Jenny
I was excited to read this book, being a pianist and a piano teacher myself. I read it in a little over a day and was so inspired by the life of Alice Herz-Sommer.

The book chronicles through vignettes and personal accounts the amazing life of Alice Herz-Sommer, a Czechoslavakian pianist and piano teacher who survived the concentration camp Theresienstadt during the Holocaust. She went on to live and teach in Israel for many years, and now at the age of 108 she lives in London and still practices...more
Yona
Won in the First Reads giveaway.

I was disappointed by the book, mostly because it didn't give what the title promises: a century of wisdom.

At best, it gave a portion of a centurys vague aphorisms. There was also an insane ammount of name-dropping. I felt like I was reading a book with some Alice Herz-Sommer in it rather than a book ABOUT Alice Herz-Sommer. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that 50% of the book was talking about someone else, and as often as not I was unsure of ho...more
Marko Cindrić

''Ako Bog zaista postoji, morat će me tražiti za oprost''. Tako je nekako, ukoliko me pamćenje dobro služi, glasila poruka na zidu jednog poznatog koncentracijskog logora iz Drugog svjetskog rata. Pročitavši knjigu Stoljeće Mudrosti, zaključio sam da ju nikako nije mogla napisati Alice Herz-Sommer, najstarija živuća osoba koja je preživjela holokaust. Razlog je vrlo čudan, ljudskom poimanju gotovo neobjašnjiv. Jer ona o tim danima gotovo da i ne želi pričati, jer iz svih tih dana za sobom nije p...more
CJ
The subject of this book is fascinating. I saw a video clip of the short film about her and had to order the book. Unfortunately, the title is misleading. It does not speak much about surviving the Holocaust and only the last chapter mentions quotes from Alice sharing wisdom. Yet, her life experience is inspiring and amazing. Her musical gift truly carried her through harrowing hardships. The confusing organization and lack of depth ruined it for me.
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6DRAKE: Alice Herz-Sommer 1 4 Dec 10, 2013 07:58AM  
Music was our food 1 1 Mar 17, 2012 10:55PM  
Education and life experience 1 2 Mar 15, 2012 10:28PM  
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