lice Sommer Herz is thought of with affection by hundreds of thousands of people in the world as both a sage and a saint.
Her wisdom is evident in almost everything that she says. Her saintliness is seen in her almost unique tolerance and her compassion. She has the true gift of forgiveness. At 106, she is the second oldest person in London, lives entirely alone in a small flat and practices the piano for two and a half hours every day.
She was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for two years with her six-year-old son and remembers her inability to feed her child and to answer his questions, as an indescribable nightmare. She remembers also playing more than 100 concerts in the camp and likens the experience, both for the performers and for the listeners, to being close to the divine. She is in no doubt that music saved her sanity as well as her life and the lives of hundreds of others.
She elaborates on this theme in this new film.
She has suffered experiences which no human being should have to endure, including the deaths of both her mother and her husband at the hands of the Nazis and yet she speaks about her experiences with a simplicity and a quiet grace that win the hearts of all who discover her.
She says that she has never hated and never will, in spite of all that has happened and in spite of growing up in Prague in the midst of three warring cultures, Czech, German and Jewish.
She does not even hate the Nazis who put her in the concentration camp because she sees very deep and she knows that hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated.
At 104 she published a book about her life and experiences. That is to say, two writers in Hamburg compiled a book from hundreds of conversations with her over nearly 3 years.
That book,A Garden of Eden in Hell, rapidly became a best-seller and has already, within two years, been published in seven languages.
Gigi Sommer is also the heroine of our multi-prize-winning film, We Want the Light, which has been shown on television and won her a following in many parts of the world.
I am in no doubt that Gigi Sommer was the source of all those prizes. That is not false modesty. I am not denying the skill and hard work that I and my colleagues put into the making of the film but the inner strength, the element that raised it so high came, in my view, from our 98 year old star.
We have made a 48 minute tribute to her which consists almost entirely of material which has never before been seen on television, anywhere.
In our film she speaks in her quiet and appealing way, even when she is describing shocking events and she plays Schubert, Smetana and Beethoven in a style which the world has long forgotten. It is the style of Artur Schnabel, who was one of her teachers: a style redolent of a happier and more confident time
in music making and one which many will find heartwarming.
And so the film is an historical document which bears witness both factually and musically.
As she approached her hundred and sixth birthday in November of 2009, she said to me, "Old age is an illness. I am not myself. The body cannot resist as it did in the past. I think I am in my last days but it doesn't matter because I have had such a beautiful life."
That statement, so typical of Gigi Sommer, so penetrating and so touching, prompted us to make this new film in celebration of her 106th birthday and her extraordinary, wonderful life.