Life is Beautiful

Alice Herz-Sommer, Czech Republic

1904 - 2014

Concert pianist and Holocaust survivor. Lived to be 110.

(Submitted by The Art of Living Team)

When you know history - wars and wars and wars … it begins with this: that we are born half-good and half-bad - everybody, everybody. And there are situations where the bad comes out and situations where the good comes out. This is the reason why people invented religion, I believe. I had a twin sister - same mother, same father, same upbringing. She was extremely gifted, but a terrible pessimist, but I was the contrary. This is the reason I am so old, even now, I am sure.

I am looking for the nice things in life. I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things. The world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and full of miracles. Our brain, the memory, how does it work? Not to speak of art and music … it is a miracle.

When I came back home after the Second World War, it was very, very painful because nobody else came back. My husband, the whole family of my husband, several members of my family, all my friends, all the friends of my family, nobody came back. It was a hard time. Then I realised what Hitler had done. I never spoke a word about it because I didn’t want my child to grow up with hatred because hatred breeds hatred. I succeeded. My son had very good friends in Germany and they invited him to play and they appreciated him. And I never hated, either, never.

I don’t need religion. I understand when we are in a terrible situation we need hope. Religion, for me, is a symbol of hope. It helps, this hope. I know about religion, but even in the darkest times I never believed. I love work. Work is the best invention, the best. Playing the piano is still a discipline. It makes you happy to have something. The worst thing is boredom. Boredom is dangerous.

I have never met anyone of this age. Never. When I was young, somebody of 60 was regarded as an old man. My temperament, this optimism and this discipline have enabled me to survive.

In any case, life is beautiful, extremely beautiful. And when you are old you appreciate it more. When you are older you think, you remember, you care and you appreciate. You are thankful for everything. Everything.

From an interview by Alan Rusbridger. Copyright, Guardian News and Media Ltd., 2006.

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