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A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor Audio CD – Audiobook, 20 Mar 2012


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Product details

  • Audio CD: 6 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group; Unabridged edition (20 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307967670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307967671
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 15 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,517,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'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 rewarded.' (Elie Wiesel)

'As one of millions who fell in love with Alice on YouTube, a 107-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 lived to teach us.' (Gloria Steinem)

'I'd 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.' (Peter Sis)

'Caroline Stoessinger's celebration of music and life, the meaning and legacy of Alice Herz-Sommer's remarkable love-filled journey across the bitter hate-filled years of 20th-century madness is lyrical, compelling, and profoundly moving. This is an extraordinary, enchanting, entirely inspiring book - most timely and needed now.' (Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt)

A sweetly affecting collection (Kirkus)

'From countless hours and interviews conducted over the course of several years, she has mined a treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer's life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, it becomes increasingly important to capture and communicate their individual stories.' (Booklist)

'A Century of Wisdom is universal and will enrich readers for generations to come' (Itzhak Perlman) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

An inspiring story of resilience and the power of optimism - the true story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest Holocaust survivor. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alice Sommer, aged 108 as I write and still an inspirational person to meet, certainly conveys great wisdom - a wisdom, an inner peace and serenity which, no doubt, have played a role in achieving such longevity: a rejection of bitterness after her experience of the Holocaust in which she lost her mother and her husband and her own ordeal in Theresiensadt; an acknowledgment of the existence of evil without dwelling on it, but instead a constant marvelling at the beauties of life and of nature, (she often says that the older she gets, the more beautiful she finds life); her uncomplainig acceptance of the frailties of old age; the unselfconscious simplicity of the Spartan life which, these days, she lives in a small flat; a lively interest in the world and especially in the people around her; her human warmth and the way this is reciprocated towards her by hundreds of the people she has been in contact with throughout her life; the inspiration she draws from the philosophy of Spinoza and from the lives of the great composers; above all, the solace, the never-ending exploration and inspiration of music which kept her alive, in more senses of the word than one, in Theresienstadt.

All these qualities emerge from the account of Caroline Stoessinger's book, which will be a good introduction for someone who knows little or nothing about Alice Sommer. It is half the length or another biography by Melissa Müller and Reinhard Piechocki called "A Garden of Eden in Hell", which was first published in English five years earlier: see my Amazon review, which gives details of her life (though be warned that three of its readers has complained that it gives away too much.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elyssa on 17 Oct 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book in good faith as I had read A Garden Of Eden which was wonderful and a book written with Alice Herz-Sommers approval. I bought this book after and then got in contact with Alice's grandson who visits her daily and to my surprise it turns out that Caroline Stoessinger wrote this book without Alice's approval. The family are not friends with Caroline and it's a shame that she is using Alice for their own profit. Sent this book straight to the charity shop half read. It's not even that good a read to be honest! A Garden Of Eden is far better and is the offical book. I don't like to think this author had the good fortune to meet Alice, then quizzed her purely to write this book then went off and did it without Alice knowing. How's that the way to treat someone?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Denis Vukosav on 7 Mar 2014
Format: Paperback
Alice Herz - Sommer was the Prague child of wealthy parents, grew up in the circle of people that have marked the past century with their works such as Franz Kafka, Gustav Mahler, Reiner Maria Rilke, Martin Buber and others. Later, she was friend of Golda Meir, attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the greater part of her life spent teaching at the Conservatory of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. She is a woman who has experienced the greatest rewards that civilization can offer and survived the greatest evilness man has devised. That is why a book of her life is filled with stories of both extremes.

Her most difficult memories of which she didn’t like to talk originate from the years spent in a concentration camp in the outskirts of Prague, Theresienstadt - Nazi transit camp to Auschwitz. The wagons that came to the camp took away the lives of countless intellectuals, writers, painters, musicians. Specifically, Theresienstadt was a special concentration camp, a cover-up that was created to show how the Jews were actually treated very well by Germans, having lots of "privileges" and how they were feeling "comfortable". Given that within its walls camp housed the largest number of Czech artists (they could put together a three symphonic orchestras), they were allowed to hold concerts in order to maintain Nazi propaganda that camps are not actually the camps.

Alice's family fled to Palestine before the Second World War II started, and her husband was separated from her at the entrance to Theresienstadt and later taken to Auschwitz, from which he never came back. In the worst circumstances, Alice already recognized and well-known pianist, played in order to save the life of herself and her only son.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kered41 on 20 Sep 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A remarkable story of a remarkable lady who despite everything she suffered, along with thousands of other Jews, never gave up hope. She then continues to live her life to the full well past the age of 100. This was not the type of book I have read in the past, but I became completely absorbed in the story. An excellent read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Penelope Moulder Young on 7 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alice Herz-Sommer lives simply, frugally even, in a modest one-room London flat, but given the priceless treasures of her mind, the wide and cultured circle of her friends and the esteem in which she is held, who could ever describe her as poor? "I am richer than the world's richest people because I am a musician", she says - music is not only her treasure but religion, philosophy, family, and in the concentration camp, even food.

Her life is a rejection of, and a refreshing antidote to, the values of our superficial celebrity-obsessed society, which often brainwashes us into judging ourselves and each other in material terms, and her optimistic approach to life is inspiring. Although she lost her husband, mother and many of her friends in the Nazi Holocaust, she displays an almost superhuman absence of bitterness. Hatred, she maintains, eats the soul of the hater.

Of particular interest to me was an account of her brief meeting as a child with her mother's childhood friend Gustav Mahler - it's amazing to find that there's someone alive today who actually met him in person. I was glad, though, to have first read an earlier book about Alice, "A Garden of Eden in Hell", because of its more straightforward chronology - it goes into more detail (although sometimes too much) and helped me to discover, or rediscover, the Chopin etudes she played with such passion and commitment in the ghetto of Terezin. This is a valuable book, perhaps even essential reading on several levels but especially for helping to keep a perspective on the things that are really important. In a world where our idols all too often turn out to have feet of clay, discovering Alice goes a long way toward restoring our faith in human nature.
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