Nightly News   |  October 23, 2013

Holocaust survivor: Without music, ‘I wouldn’t be alive’

George Horner, 90, is the oldest musician to make his debut in Boston’s Symphony Hall. During the Holocaust, he played music to lift the spirits of other prisoners, and shared some of those arrangements during a concert organized by the Terezin Music Foundation. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight the extraordinary debut last night on one of the great stages in this country, boston symphony hall , when a man who survived one of the great horrors of modern civilization shared some of the music that became his lifeline during a time he wasn't sure he'd survive. the story tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk lt. [ applause ]

>> reporter: yo- yo ma is used the to standing ovations in boston 's similar to any hall. this one is different. the crowd is applauding the man standing next to him. at 90 years old, george horner is the oldest musician to make his debut on boston 's famed stage. he is also a holocaust survivor . he sums up his emotions on this day very simply.

>> elated. and thankful.

>> reporter: thankful to be alive and still playing. george has not lost his swing.

>> reporter: upbeat, happy music from a time that was anything but. composed in the same nazi concentration camp where horner and his family were imprisoned, the trained pianist performed with friends to lift up fellow prisoners. so you were sneaking around playing the piano?

>> not the piano. it would have been difficult to carry.

>> reporter: good point.

>> the accordion.

>> reporter: in the concentration camp , music was therapy.

>> for me, it was like medication. because when i played, i played the music and i helped the people. so i felt good.

>> george transcended the most horrible thing. to be positive is a great test meant to the human spirit .

>> reporter: the concert was organized by the terrazine music foundation which dedicates itself to keeping the music of those who died in the holocaust alive.

>> when george goes on stage tonight the silenced voices will be amongst us. he's giving voice to them. what a gift.

>> reporter: one of very few eyewitnesses left.

>> if it weren't for music i wouldn't pt be alive.

>> reporter: shows how a playful note can help overcome a painful history. stephanie gosk, nbc news, boston .