Education / Events

Violins of Hope Gives Voice to Holocaust Victims

I attended the Violins of Hope concert last night. Words cannot describe how moving the music was and how meaningful it was for me to see and hear violins that survived the Holocaust. It was a mixture of joy and sadness. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I had to share it with you all today. (I sent them an e-mail to suggest that they create a CD and/or DVD of the stories and concert to share this amazing program with even more people around the world. If one already exists, I couldn’t find it.)

Here’s some background information on this program from the website in case you haven’t heard of Violins of Hope.

the-founder-photo-300x217Amnon Weinstein (pictured left) has spent the last two decades locating and restoring violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. 

He dedicates this important work to 400 relatives he never knew. These grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins stayed behind in Eastern Europe when Amnon’s parents, Moshe and Golda, immigrated in 1938 to Palestine, where Moshe opened a violin shop. After the war, Moshe learned that his entire family—400 in all—had been murdered during the Holocaust. The pain of this discovery led to his first heart attack. Moshe never spoke of his family again. When young Amnon would ask Golda about their relatives, she would show him a book about the Holocaust. Pointing to the ghastly photos of the dead, she would say, “This is our family.” She would break down in tears, unable to explain further.

After growing up to become one of the most respected violin makers in the world, Amnon became determined to reclaim his lost heritage. He started locating violins that were played by Jews in the camps and ghettos, painstakingly piecing them back together so they could be brought to life again on the concert stage. Although most of the musicians who originally played the instruments were silenced by the Holocaust, their voices and spirits live on through the violins that Amnon has lovingly restored. He calls these instruments the Violins of Hope.

12-violins

Some of the violins Amnon brought for the concert.
Each one had a heart-wrenching story and a beautiful song.

heil-hitler-violin

This one is called the Heil Hitler because when
its Jewish owner took it in for repair, the craftsman secretly
opened it and drew a swastika and wrote “Heil Hitler” in German.
It survived the Holocaust, but it will NEVER be repaired or played.

A few months prior to the Violins of Hope concert, a dear friend of mine and mentor, Sonia Pressman Fuentes, invited me and my family to join her at her Temple to watch the documentary about Amnon’s work and how it came to be. We went and were blown away by the story of Amnon’s restoration of these precious pieces of Jewish history and how deeply personal it was to everyone who was there. Amnon’s work makes me proud to be Jewish and gives me hope that the world will see our strength and humanity and all the beauty we bring to the world.

You can watch the Violins of Hope documentary by clicking on the image below.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-3-12-52-pm

Special thanks to the Jewish Federation and all the many sponsors who brought Violins of Hope to the Sarasota community and select schools. Over 8,000 students attended special concerts and were able to view the violins. I am hopeful they will remember the stories and songs they heard.

me-at-violins-of-hope

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