For Jews enduring utter despair and unimaginable evil during the Holocaust, music offered haven and humanity.
The strains of a beloved song supplied solace, even if only for a few moments. The chords also provided a vital reminder that even the most brutal regime could not rob them of their faith.
In some cases, the ability to play the violin spared Jewish musicians from more grueling labors or even death. Nearly 50 years ago, a man who had played the violin in Auschwitz visited Amnon Weinstein’s violin workshop in Tel Aviv. The survivor had not touched his instrument since leaving the death camp. He now wanted to get it restored for his grandson. The top of the violin was damaged from having been played in the rain and snow. When Amnon took the instrument apart, he discovered ashes inside that he could only assume to be fallout from the crematoria at Auschwiz. The very thought of what that violin and its owner had been through together shook Amnon to his core, but he quickly pushed those gruesome thoughts aside. It was still too difficult for him to think about the Holocaust.
By the 1990’s, around the same time he started training his son Avshalom, to craft and restore violins, Amnon was finally ready to reclaim his lost heritage. Five decades after his family had been destroyed, he started reflecting not only on the Holocaust but on the role that music - especially the violin - played in Jewish lives throughout that dark period. He began locating and restoring violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust.