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

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  733 ratings  ·  153 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 Eichma
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2012)
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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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
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
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
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
3.5 stars.
As I read this, I was amazed by Alice’s ability to remain so positive in the face of all she had endured in her life. I was also surprised by some of her descriptions of life in the concentration camps - how she described some of it didn’t sound as bad as other accounts I have heard. Perhaps that is another example of her positivity - maybe the bad aspects didn’t stand out for her as long as she had the ability to make music.

This attitude carried on into other parts of her life - she m
Julie Dawson
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Adelaide Silva
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Como classificar um livro que é um relato real de um século de história? Alice foi uma sobrevivente mas acima de tudo foi uma mulher que amava a vida e que a viveu com grande sabedoria. Fã de livros sobre o Holocausto, este entusiasmou-me por a protagonista ter chegado aos nossos dias e por conhecer lugares onde viveu e sobreviveu
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heel mooi boek maar de titel is redelijk misleidend. Ja, Alice heeft wel degelijk deels haar leven te danken aan het feit dat ze als pianiste kon blijven optreden in theresienstadt, maar dit wordt slechts heel kort beschreven in dit boek.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hoewel De pianiste van Theresienstadt de indruk wekt alleen maar over de Tweede Wereldoorlog te gaan, is niets minder waar. Eigenlijk komt de oorlog zelf amper aan bod. Het zijn de memoires van Alice Herz-Sommer waar het om draait. Alice is ten tijde van het verschijnen van deze biografie 108 jaar oud. Er wordt teruggeblikt op haar hele leven, dus bijna de gehele 20ste eeuw en een beginnetje van de 21ste eeuw. Ze is in 2014 op 110-jarige leeftijd overleden, als een van de laatste levende Holocau ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
choppy. disjointed.
Joy H.
Jan 16, 2015 marked it as watched-film-only
Shelves: holocaust, music, memoir

Last night (1/15/15) I streamed a very unusual documentary entitled:
"The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life" (2014)
It is an Academy Award-winning documentary (2014). So inspiring!

"Czech pianist and holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer describes how music enabled her to survive one of the darkest chapters in human history."

I was looking around for some
Yona Yurwit
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Peggy King
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book, and only made it through Chapter 2. I was expecting wisdom, but the initial two chapters seemed to focus on 'name dropping'(Mahler, Kafka, Meir and letting the reader know of famous people Alice had met and interacted with. Had the title,my expectations, and the early chapters been different, I might have liked this book more.
Janet Roberts
This is such a fantastic story about the world's oldest living holocaust survivor - so why did I find this book so boring? I found it muddled and disjointed and struggled to finish it.
Very disappointed - watching Alice Herz-Sommer on YouTube is much better
Aug 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
Remarkable woman, this Alice Herz-Sommer. No question about that. However, reading this book about her was rather unsatisfactory. It is so poorly written! It has a weird structure and it is full of clichés... Biggest complain: It could have been much better.
Een indrukwekkende vrouw met een indrukwekkend leven.
Oct 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Het boek gaat niet zo zeer over het concentratie kamp maar eerder hoe de liefde voor muziek al deze verschrikkingen en tegenslagen die Alice meemaakt overwint.
Roy Khadra
Some tell stories about heroes they imagine, but some others live the events. Some recite verses about Humanity by staying distant from it, but few are the ones who are ready to walk all its paths with a smile and without fearing any cost.
"Alice Herz-Sommer" is a person who made me feel my cowardice and my smallness with every page of her story.
She used the say shouting: "Music is a dream". She carried her dream in her heart and went to her battle she was forced to face. No fancy cars or any ot
Green Magritte
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Co se týče samotné knihy, musím být trochu kritická. V žádném případě se to netýká samotné osobnosti Alice Herz Sommerové a jejích zážitků! Oceňuji, že někdo seznámil čtenáře z různých koutů světa s touto výjimečnou osobností, která si pozornost nezaslouží jen kvůli tomu, že přežila spolu se 130 lidmi Terezín, ale především pro její životní postoj a energii, kterou byla díky své hudbě schopná dále předávat. Autorka Caroline Stoessingerová je však v první řadě klavíristkou a už ne tak zdatnou spi ...more
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6DRAKE: Alice Herz-Sommer 1 4 Dec 10, 2013 07:58AM  
Music was our food 1 2 Mar 17, 2012 10:55PM  
Education and life experience 1 2 Mar 15, 2012 10:28PM  
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“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. Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad.” 1 likes
“Aware that hatred eats the soul of the hater rather than the hated, Alice reasons, “I am still grateful for life. Life is a present.” 1 likes
More quotes…