It is marvelous, is it not, what YouTube brings to us? Oh, I know it has way too many videos of people acting stupid and of terriers dancing to disco music, but then you come across something that is so beautiful and so transporting that you forgive it for all the sludge.Today I’m linking to such a piece, a 12-minute film clip called Alice Dancing Under the Gallows. Save it until you can watch it in full, because it’s worth the time. It’s the trailer for a documentary about Alice Sommer Herz, the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. Alice was 39 and a concert pianist in Prague when she was sent to Theresienstadt, which was a “show camp” designed to demonstrate to the world that the Nazis treated their Jewish prisoners well. The inmates knew they lived under a death sentence, but they also were allowed privileges denied in other camps.
Alice continued to play music in captivity (it helped that she had committed so many pieces to memory). The film clip is about the power of music to help people transcend suffering, but it’s also about optimism and forgiveness and what makes life worth living. (It makes me think as well of my time in Germany and of the baffling question of how a culture could produce both Bach and the Holocaust.)
“I am richer than other people because of what I’ve experienced,” Alice says. And we are richer for having the chance to spend even 12 minutes with such a blazingly bright soul.