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A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer Paperback – Unabridged, March 7, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan UK (March 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330451596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330451598
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Melissa Müller is a journalist, the author of Anne Frank: The Biography, and the coauthor of Until the Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary, which was translated into more than 20 languages. Reinhard Piechocki is the author of a number of works of cultural history and has been a close friend of Alice Herz-Sommer’s for many years.

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Customer Reviews

The book is an easy read and fascinating.
Nanette Johns
Unbelievable story of a woman who survives a horrendous time in our history.
Linda Ness
It was a disappointment but I plodded through it.
Dr. Gail Lockart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
WARNING: A READER HAS COMPLAINED THAT THIS REVIEW GIVES THE STORY AWAY, AND THEY HAS SAID (S)HE WOULD NOT NOW BUY THE BOOK. I AM SORRY (S)HE IS DENYING HIM/HERSELF A GREAT EXPERIENCE, WHICH WOULD GO FAR BEYOND WHAT (S)HE LEARNED FROM MY REVIEW, AS THE 15 WHO SO FAR HAVE FOUND IT HELPFUL WILL ATTEST.

Music could always transport Alice Sommer into an autonomous paradisical world. This helped her when the real world turned hellish under the Nazis; and the central part of the book is about those years.

She was born in 1903 into a Jewish, acculturated and German-speaking family in Prague. She started playing the piano at a very young age, and at 21, made her debut as soloist with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1931 she married Leopold Sommer and their son Stephan (later to be called Raphael) was born in 1937.

With the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939 their lives changed swiftly, with humiliating restrictions being imposed on Jews day after day. And then the deportations began. First, in July 1942 her 72-year old mother was deported from her Old Age Home to Theresienstadt (and from there to the Treblinka death camp). Then a year later, in July 1943, it was the turn of Alice, Leopold and Stephan, then aged six, to be sent to Theresienstadt.

The physical conditions there were grim, but a few months before the Sommers arrived, the SS had decided to turn it into a `show camp= for observers from the International Red Cross - and so the deportees were provided with musical instruments (which had been confiscated from Jews) and were allowed to arrange their own entertainment. Alice gave many recitals, and the descriptions of these are very moving.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By jen2dogs on December 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A compelling true story about an amazing lady, with a strong will to survive and protect her son. To say music is her life is an understatement. Her music and faith in human being has kept her going, despite the horrors she has endured during her lifetime, including being incarcerated in a concentration camp and losing most of her family. She is still able to play the piano and entertain friends daily at the age of 107 and sees the good in people. Delivery of this book was speedy from overseas and the book was just as described, in excellent condition. Recommended as an excellent read and I found it very hard to put the book down once I started to read it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Patricia S. Winter on February 22, 2011
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As I was scanning through a newspaper I stumbled on an article about the life of Alice Herz-Sommer which immediately interested me. The book is superlatively inspiring and heartwarming, one that I would highly recommend to everyone.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Linda Ness on September 23, 2013
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Unbelievable story of a woman who survives a horrendous time in our history. The most amazing part of her story, is her resistance to be taken down and how she learned to cope with her situation. Just amazing!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kate on July 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book about Jewish life under the Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia, but, as a non-musician, I found some of the technical information a bit tiresome at times. I was disappointed that the grammar was so poor throughout the book, ranging from typo's to missing words. I'm not sure if it has to do with the book's lay-out on my Kindle but sometimes whole paragraphs about pieces of music would appear without any apparent connection to the preceding paragraph. These typing errors unfortunately distract from an otherwise interesting book.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Culross on February 27, 2011
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Having visited Prague on many occasions, as well as Theresienstadt, I was most impressed with the stark reality of the events described in the book. Anyone who is tempted to dismiss such scenes as either imaginary or (just as bad) irrelevant is only avoiding the tragic reality of what took place there. Hopefully those like Alice Herz-Sommer who share these painful memories will help to prevent a repeat-performance of these horrendous acts in future generations.
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By Nanette Johns on September 4, 2014
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Alice died this year at 108. This is the incredible story of her life before and in the concentration camp. There are U Tube videos that i suggest everyone watch. This woman is an incredible inspiration to maintain a happy mind no matter what the circumstances.
The book is an easy read and fascinating. It doesn't go too much into the horrors of the camp. It's about her life before, during and after, and raising her son in the concentration camp...Always laughing. She was the oldest living holocaust survivor and concert pianist. Truly inspiring. Also read A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger. A Garden of Eden in Hell was re published as Alice's Piano. I like the first title better. Much more meaningful.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sr. Mary J. Buckman on September 16, 2013
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This book was excellent in helping to understand what a section of Jewish people endured during WWII. I have shared it with others.
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