Rachel Marker Project #1: Moira Roth on Alice Herz-Sommer

Posted by Alla Efimova on Tuesday December 4 2012

In conjunction with the upcoming exhibition at The Magnes, writer and art historian Moira Roth will post a series of texts from the ongoing narrative about her fictional character Rachel Marker. The first post is dedicated to Alice Herz-Sommer, one of the inspirations for the Rachel Marker narrative. A Prague-born Jew now living in London, a renowned pianist, and survivor of Theresienstadt, Herz-Sommer has just celebrated her 109th birthday.


for Alice Herz-Sommer with love

Moira Roth, November 26, 2012

I sit

In California

Thinking about Alice’s constant love of the piano

Over the decades.



About where and when she has played—

in public and private spaces,

in times of peace and war.


About how,

When Rose Hacker and I would visit her in London,

We would stand outside the door of the building,

Hearing the sound of the piano,

And then ring the bell.

The piano would stop, and Alice, smiling,

Would appear to welcome us warmly.

I love the story in her biography, A Garden of Eden in Hell,

When Alice,

A young child in Prague at the time,

Secretly played the piano

One night in the moonlight

(because her father had turned off all the gaslights in their flat),

Resolving then and there to be a musician.

That was some time ago,

But in certain ways she hasn’t changed.

She is still (I suspect) beautifully stubborn,

Although she may no longer play secretly

In the moonlight

And now plays the piano

In London not Prague.

I wonder, will she play the piano today

On her 109th birthday?

Alice Herz-Sommer, November 26, 2012

Photograph by Ariel Sommer

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Filed under: Random Musings

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