During the holocaust, prisoners arriving at concentration camps brought along some of their possessions. Musicians, naturally, brought instruments. Last night I happened upon a news segment that detailed some of the experiences of prisoners and music. One survivor arrived at the camp with her mother. She was very young at the time, but she recalls the presence of an orchestra as they walked through the gates of the death camp. Her mother turned to her and said, “See, it can’t be all bad, they have music here.”
The segment indicated that for some musicians, their talent kept them alive longer than others at the whims of prison commanders who apparently enjoyed, amongst other things, Beethoven.
The segment was mostly about a luthier named Amnon Weinstein, who has spent the last 20 years restoring violins and violas recovered from Nazi death camps. He first heard about the musicians of the holocaust 50 years ago; a customer brought him a violin case that contained a violin and ashes. At the time, he couldn’t bear to do the restoration (his own mother’s and father’s families had also been killed in the holocaust). But in 1996 he began restoring holocaust violins; he’s worked on over 400 instruments to date.
His goal is to hear them played. In a partnership with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, the Violins of Hope were recently heard in a series of concerts for the second time in North America (Weinstein’s roots are in Palestine).
The project has been written up in a book called, “Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust-Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour” by James Grymes.
Violins are survivors.
Thanks for reading.