Violins of Hope: Instruments that survived Holocaust to be played publicly

Instruments that survived Holocaust to be played publicly (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - It was one of the darkest moments in human history: The Holocaust. The murder of six million Jewish people by Nazis.

Survivors are old now, and soon, there won't be any left, but some Holocaust survivors will live forever.

These survivors though, are violins, which are now in Cincinnati, from Israel for concerts.

The violins of the Holocaust can now bring back memories of those who perished.

“My father's parents arrived in Israel before the war. In 1938, they left behind 11 brothers and sisters. Only one survived,” said Avshi Weinstein, who is a violin maker in Israel.

Avshi and his father have restored more than 60 violins from the Holocaust. Seven will be played at a concert in Cincinnati, one for the first time ever in public.

Giora Schmidt is a professional violinist and a visiting music professor at the University of Cincinnati. He is also one of the concert soloists

“There's something about the Jewish people and the violin that's timeless for me,” said Giora.

Schmidt's great-grandparents died in Auschwitz and Dachau. There will be an Auschwitz violin in the concert and one from Dachau, too. Both are musical survivors.

“The wood is a living, breathing thing. You can hear when an instrument has been played or not… and it keeps ringing and that's amazing,” said Avshi.

It seems ludicrous to think that death camps had orchestras, but the Nazis used them to lull camp arrivals into a false sense of security, then marched the prisoners to hard labor.

It was cruel, but music also provided a moment of joy.

“When people would hear concerts, they said it took us to a different place. It took us out from the misery of the camps. It was in a sense a means of escape,” said Avshi.

The only means, when the only thing left was hope. “Violins of Hope.”

“I feel it's a privilege to put this vibrating box under my chin and make that sound… and yeah, if they heard that in the 30s and 40s and that's a remarkable lens to say they felt that vibration too,” said Giora.

A performance featuring the Violins of Hope with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Ariel Quartet is Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Music Hall.

If you can't make that, two of the violins will be part of a free concert at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the Newport branch of the Campbell County Library.

The "Violins of Hope" were brought to Cincinnati by the local Holocaust and Humanity Center, along with several other community groups.

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