Prague – Seventy years ago this week, the Nazis began deporting Czech Jews to the garrison town of Terezín (Theresienstadt) in nothern Bohemia; the oldest known survivor of that Gestapo “show camp” — and of the Holocaust — this Friday marks her 108th birthday.
Alice Herz-Sommer was born in Prague on Nov. 26, 1903, along with her twin sister, Mariana. Her family, non-practising Jews, moved in Prague’s cultural circles.
By her mid-teens, Alice was touring as a pianist and met her husband to be, Leopold Sommer, in 1931, marrying him just two weeks later. She gave birth to their son, Raphael, in 1937, two years before, the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia; though most of her family and friends immigrated to Palestine via Romania, including Max Brod (Franz Kafka’s friend and biographer), she stayed in Prague, and, like some 150,000 other Jews, was sent to the ghetto in Terezín.
The Nazis made it into a “show camp” for Red Cross inspections and simultaneously a staging post for tens of thousands of Jewish inmates who were shipped off to their deaths in other camps. It operated for three-and-a-half years, serving as a transit station especially for Czech Jews who were artistically and culturally talented but in reality, it served as a concentration camp for Jews before their deportation to death camps elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
(Source: Czech Position)