A CENTURY OF WISDOM by Caroline Stoessinger
Publisher Spiegel and Grau/Random House, April 2012
An inspiring story of resilience and the power of optimism--the true
story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor,
and the pianist who was the subject of an inspiring You Tube video that
moved millions of viewers.
At nearly 108 years old, the pianist Alice Herz-Sommer is the world's oldest
Holocaust survivor. 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 Eichmann in Jerusalem, and
along the way coming into contact with some of the most fascinating
historical figures of our time. As a child in Prague, she spent weekends and
holidays in the company of Franz Kafka, whom she knew as Uncle Franz; and
Gustav Mahler, Sigmund Freud, and Rainer Maria Rilke were friends of her
mother. When Alice moved to Israel after the war, Golda Meir became a friend
and attended her house concerts, as did Arthur Rubinstein, Leonard
Bernstein, and Isaac Stern, and she was friendly with Daniel Barenboim, whom
she heard play when he was just a child. Today Alice lives in London, where
she still practices piano for hours every day.
Despite her imprisonment in Theresienstadt and the murders of her mother,
husband, and friends by the Nazis, and much later the premature death of her
son, Alice has been victorious in her ability to live a life without
bitterness. She credits music as the key to her survival, as well as her
ability to acknowledge the humanity in each person, even her enemies. A
Century of Wisdom is the remarkable and inspiring story of one woman's
lifelong determination--in the face of some of the worst evils known to
man--to find goodness in life. It is a testament to the bonds of friendship,
the power of music, and the importance of leading a life of material
simplicity, intellectual curiosity, and never-ending optimism.
"A CENTURY OF WISDOM is a stately and elegant book about an artist who
found deliverance in her passion for music. Caroline Stoessinger writes with
a special purity, as though she were arranging pearls on a string of silk."
-- Pat Conroy
"I have rarely read a Holocaust survivor's memoir as enriching and
meaningful. Get Caroline Stoessinger's book, A CENTURY OF WISDOM, telling
Alice Herz-Sommer's tale of her struggles and triumphs. You will feel
-- Elie Wiesel
"As one of millions who fell in love on YouTube with Alice Herz-Sommer, a
108-year-old Holocaust survivor who plays the piano and greets each day with
no hint of bitterness, I’m grateful to Caroline Stoessinger for writing a
book that explains this mystery. You will be inspired by the story of Alice
Herz-Sommer, who lives to teach us."
"I walked on the cobblestones in Prague for thirty years wondering who might
have walked on them before me: Kafka, Freud, Mahler. It feels like a miracle
to have encountered, in Caroline Stoessinger’s wonderful book, Alice
Herz-Sommer, who walked with them all—with a heart full of music."
"Caroline Stoessinger’s celebration of music and life and of the meaning and
legacy of Alice Herz-Sommer’s remarkable, love-filled journey across the
bitter, hate-filled years of twentieth-century madness is lyrical,
compelling, and profoundly moving. This is an extraordinary, enchanting,
entirely inspiring book—most timely and needed now."
--Blanche Wiesen Cook