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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival with the help of music
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...
Published on August 3, 2007 by Ralph Blumenau

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but the Kindle edition has really atrocious grammar - very irritating
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...
Published 18 months ago by Kate


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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival with the help of music, August 3, 2007
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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. Stephan, who was musically even more precocious than his mother had been at that age, was quickly roped in to rehearse and perform in Brundibar, the opera specially composed for the children in the camp.

As defeat for Germany drew nearer in the autumn of 1944, the SS, possibly fearing an uprising of the able-bodied men in Theresienstadt, decided to send them to the extermination camps. Alice=s husband was among these: she never saw him again. She learnt later that he had survived the death-march from Auschwitz to Dachau - only to die there of typhus.

But Himmler still wanted to preserve Theresienstadt as a `model' camp and to produce it in his defence at the end of the war. Alice had to work an eight hour day in barracks where slates were broken up to make insulating materials, work which was particularly hard on her hands; but in the evening she would often perform in the concerts that continued to be staged.

In May 1945 Theresienstadt was liberated and in mid-June Alice and Stephan were able to return to Prague and to continue their music al lives there.

But after the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, it again became dangerous to speak freely. In March 1949 Alice decided to move with her son to Israel, where she was to live for the next 37 years. There her musical career as performer and teacher continued, while Raphael in due course became a cellist of world stature. After his marriage in 1966, he and his wife were based in London, and there Alice joined him in 1986.

The book ends with the saddest thing that can afflict a loving mother: in 2001 Raphael Sommer died of a heart attack while on a concert tour in Israel. Alice was then 98, and coped with this grief as she had coped with so many other crises in her life, drawing some comfort from music (she still plays the piano in her Hampstead home for three hours every day). Never did she give way to bitterness; she always remained life-affirming; her philosophy eschewed hatred, whether for Germans or for Arabs. Her 100th birthday drew tributes from people from many lands. This moving book is one of them.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Garden of Eded in Hell - Alice Herz-Sommer, December 25, 2011
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great inspiration, February 22, 2011
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but the Kindle edition has really atrocious grammar - very irritating, July 22, 2013
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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garden of Eden in Hell, September 23, 2013
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
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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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Been There", February 27, 2011
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my heroines., September 4, 2014
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Rich History of A Life in Love and Music, June 27, 2014
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
I've been researching gulag/concentration camp life and have found Alice's story (and that of her son) to be an arresting tale of beauty in the midst of horror, uncertainty and chaos.

Beautifully told with a threading of the Chopin Etudes throughout, you'll never read another story like hers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great read of endurance., March 27, 2014
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This review is from: A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer (Paperback)
Even though this is tedious in detail, due to Alice's love of music, it is a page turner. This is her true story of what a soul can endure through God given talent that sustained her. A must read!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Garden of Eden in Hell, 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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A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer
A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer by Melissa Müller (Paperback - March 7, 2008)
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