The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life (2013)

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life (2013)

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

My Review and Thoughts:

A moving and touching part of history and ultimate survival. The beauty and artistic value of music and how it saved one lady's life during the horrible and darkest moments in human history.

Alice lives alone at 109 years old. She graces life with her love for music. Her apartment building listens and is amazement at her music and her smiles and wonderful attitude of love of others.  Listening to Alice is a beautiful experience to be hold.

You relive her life through pictures and her telling about her reality of growing up in music and becoming a pianist. Her experiences of many concerts and performances. From her marriage in 1937 to her giving birth and to the time playing for the Nazis.

A sad and tragic life, yet passionate with music and understanding of living life to the fullest. She did not let the horrors control her whole life.

In 1939 the Nazis invaded and took over and the stamp of Jew was labeled upon her and her family and friends. Alice and Jews where denied the right to play music that was only a gift to non-Jews. Alice still played and defied the Nazi's by hiding a small Piccolo Piano.

I think what's interesting with this documentary is Alice still saw certain humanities in the Nazis. Certain German individuals commented on the beauty of her music and basically stated it made their hardships, a little less hard, by listening to her beautiful sounds. Alice watched all around her as her friends and family and others of the Jewish nation started to be deported and even while they were labeled in-human, Alice still had the beauty of her music and the reality of entertaining others.

She was 39 when she and her child was deported and sent to Terezin Camp a place used to showcase the world that concentration life was not bad. The Nazis would stage and film fake realities to showcase the world that Jews where being taken care of. She was used as propaganda. There in the camp she would play concert after concert all the while the truth of starvation and imprisonment was the true reality.

To listen to Alice speak today at 109 years old on the reality that she loves life, takes life as the greatest and most precious reality. To listen to her love for music, to listen to her speak of the past and not dwell on it, to move forward and to be honored with each day of life and to not take life for granted. Even though what she went through and even though what she lost, it’s just amazing the concept of her beliefs. She is truly inspiring.

Music gave her hope. An outlook. I really like the mention of Dr. Josef Mengele how he would come in and request music. How no telling what he had been doing such as experimenting on children and now he wanted to listen to a beautiful piece of music.

The power of music makes the world move. It brings people together. It alters outcomes and music can even cause piece for a time. Alice played and others played and the surroundings seem to fade away. Music created an atmosphere of beauty and wonder even though hell was all around them.

Alice talks about now at 109, German journalist come and visit her often and before they enter her place, they ask can they come in. The journalist often state, "don't you hate us". 

Alice responds:

"I never hate, hatred brings hatred."

A little about the camp and backstory of Alice’s life.

Theresienstadt Concentration Camp or simply known as the Theresienstadt Ghetto was created by the SS. It was located in the city of Terezin. During the war it was a Nazi Concentration Camp. It was a place of horror just like the other camps but this camp was staged with many performances of music, plays and documentary’s to show the world a fake reality of camp life. In reality thousands upon thousands of innocent people died there. Not shocking, just like the other camps most where shot and killed right out. Mostly died of starvation or disease. Sadly the truth of this place is more horrible then most because over 150,000 men women and children where there to act and then sent off to Treblinka and Auschwitz to be slaughter by the masses. 

Interesting to note is this was already a place which had been built. Its completion was way before the war. It started in the 1780’s and was finally finished in 1790. It was a fort created for Austrian Emperor Joseph 2nd. In 1940 the Gestapo took it over. Now the sad reality of this camp would later become a stopping spot before the extermination camps. It housed at one time, Jews 65 and older. This place would basically go down in history as the Nazi propaganda Camp. Now most notably is the incident in 1943 when Commandant Anton Burger made over 40,000 people stand out in the cold so a census could be done, that very night hundreds froze to death. Over 30,000 Jews died from starvation in this camp all the while being used as puppets for fake propaganda in news reels and Alice was one of them. Now to show you the mass scale is that the barracks, had been built to hold 7,000. In 1944 the Germans began to send Jews from Theresienstadt to the out rite death camps. In one months’ time over 20,000 people were sent.

Now SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Siegfried Seidl who was the 1st Commandant ordered that over 300 Jews build upon the place to convert it into the camp. He had promised them that they and their families would not be killed. In 1944 every one of them where sent off to the gas chambers and was murdered.

Now this place held its fair share of major Nazi’s such as Siegfried Seidl who was in charge of the Bergen-Belson Death Camp and was staff officer to sign and be part of the creation the final solution by Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann himself put him in charge of Theresienstadt. 

Seidl claim to horrible fame was the mass murder of thousands of people through starvation and brutal treatment and out right murder. He was placed on 5th Einsatzgruppe SS Death Squad. Following orders through Eichmann he help organize the largest mass deportation of Jews over 400 thousand in 56 days, most where sent directly to death. After the war he tried to hide but was ultimately tried and executed for his crimes.

Another famous Nazi monster at Theresienstadt was Anton “Toni” Burger. He was part of the SS and was part of the Reich Security Main Office Special Action Command “Eichmann”. He soon in 1939 was transferred to the Central Agency of Jewish Emigration in Prague which he himself was involved with the taking away of over one thousand Jewish homes. In 1942 he helped deport Belgian, Dutch and French Jews. He worked at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He would became Commandant at Theresienstadt. He remained there until 1944. He was the one who made the Jews stand in the cold, causing many deaths. He was known to cause cruelty. After the war he was captured and sentenced to death, but escaped, and hid until being found in 1951. Soon after his capture he escaped again. There he lived the rest of his life under different names and it was not until 1994 did they find him, which he had already died in 1991 of natural causes, never getting the just due he deserved. The Jews never got there justice against him. Now what makes this even more sickening is he went by the name in hiding Wilhelm Bauer. Who was Bauer, he was a Jewish man that he had murdered in the Theresienstadt camp in 1944.

Next in charge of the camp was Karl Rahm. He served from 1944 to 1945 as Commandant. He served under Adolf Eichmann. In 1944 he was part of the responsibility of creating the fake show for the International Red Cross. Fake the lives of the Jewish camp prisoners. Putting on shows and music and fake films of peaceful life in the camp, which Alice became apart of. He was responsible also for the many deportations to death camps. Now something that Theresienstadt is known for is, yes all the fake filming and real cruelty, but also this camp housed famous artists, musicians, and a mix of many types of intellectuals in the Jewish community who sadly many of them were slaughtered. Now Rahm was one, who was known for beating and oversaw a lot of the torture taking place. He was also one to put the torture into place. Now what goes totally against that reality of evilness if you will, is that he was known to have a great relationship with some Jews and also saved some Jews from deportation to the death camps. After the war he was captured and went on trial for crimes and sentenced to death.

On a side note you can see his character portrayed in two iconic mini-series about the war. The wonderful 1988 War and Remembrance where actor Robert Stephens plays the part and also in the amazing top notch must see masterpiece mini-series Holocaust (1978). John Collins plays the part of Rahm.

When this documentary was being made Alice was 109 years old, the oldest living Concentration Camp victim living. Alice was an amazing pianist and music teacher and was truly a part of history. 

Her history from the war or her love and passion for music should be remembered. This documentary about her life and ordeal, won an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary.

Alice is truly a strong willed women that never in spite of the horrors upon her life ever wavered from her happiness in life. She watched the world around her seem to enter the flames and horrors of a so called hell, such as knowing her 72 year old mother being murdered by the Nazis. Also the murder of her husband at Dachau. At the camp she played in over 100 concerts for prisoners and for Nazis. Interesting to note is she was allowed to keep her son by her side and her son survived the camp which he was one of only a few, making it all the more amazing that a child lived through the horrors. After the war she became a music teacher and taught the love of music to others. Her son followed in her footsteps and became a leading cellist and conductor.

“I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.” –Alice

“Music saved my life and music saves me…I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my Religion.”—Alice

A wonderful documentary that I highly recommend. Alice was a sweet beautiful amazing historical figure in a moment of horror in history, but yet her smile shines in the peaceful reality of the amazing concept of life itself.

We can learn a lot from Alice.