Throughout history, violins have been a symbol of Jewish faith and culture. They have distinct voices that are able to capture the range of human emotion.
During the Holocaust, Jews were often forced to play violins and other instruments in concentration camps, ghettos, and extermination camps. Music was used by the Nazis to control and manipulate prisoners, including playing music to signal the beginning and end of forced labor, and to drown out the sounds of suffering. But violins also played a role as a symbol of resistance and survival during the Holocaust: many Jewish musicians were able to keep their instruments with them in the camps and ghettos, and used them to perform and show their value for staying alive.
Violins of Hope is a non-profit organization that works to collect, restore, and exhibit violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. The organization was founded by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein, who has been collecting and restoring violins that were played by Jewish musicians in concentration camps, ghettos, and hiding places while Hitler was in power. The organization educates people about the Holocaust and the role that music played in the lives of Jewish musicians during that time. Violins of Hope also works to promote tolerance and understanding through the power of music, by organizing concerts and exhibitions featuring these violins.
As someone with Jewish heritage, this organization’s mission hit me in a deeply personal way, and it was imperative for me to share their story with you. As we approach Holocaust Remembrance day (Yam HaShoah), an organization like Violins Of Hope helps us reflect on the atrocities committed during this dark period in history and the importance of standing up against hatred and discrimination. And it also helps us reflect on the life-saving and Herculean power of music.