A documentary about the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor won an Oscar one week after she died.
Alice Herz-Sommer, who died in London on Feb. 23 at the age of 110, was the subject of “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” which won the Academy Award for documentary short Sunday night.
In accepting the Oscar, the film’s director, Malcolm Clarke, said that he was struck by Herz-Sommer’s “extraordinary capacity for joy” and “amazing capacity for forgiveness.”
The Prague-born Herz-Sommer, a concert pianist, was a prisoner in Theresienstadt.
Trained as a pianist from childhood, her promising career was cut short upon the Nazi invasion of 1939. After being shipped to Theresienstadt in 1943, Alice was saved by her musical gifts; she became a member of the camp orchestra and gave more than 100 recitals.
The film is anything but a grim Holocaust documentary with Alice’s unfailing affirmation of life, usually accompanied by gusts of laughter.
The film’s producer Nick Reed and director Malcolm Clarke were reluctant to take on the new assignment.
“We asked ourselves, who is going to watch another Holocaust documentary with a really old lady? Fred Bohbot, our executive producer, Malcolm and I have really been stunned by the enthusiastic reaction to the film,” Reed said.
Clarke and Reed are British-born Canadians. Neither is Jewish, but as Reed put it, “I am not a Jew, but I’m Jewish.”
Asked about the film’s budget, Reed responded, “About 35 cents, a bus token and bits of old chewing gum.”