More than 50 years ago, a young man came into the shop of Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein. The customer was interested in having a violin that had belonged to his grandfather restored.
As Weinstein began his work, he noticed black dust in the instrument’s wooden body. Studying it closer, he realized it was ash – the instrument had been at Ausch-witz, where it was played in a death camp orchestra. The violin, like the man’s grandfather, had survived the Holocaust.
Weinstein was horrified. Some 400 of his relatives had died in the Holocaust. But over time, he came to realize there were incredible stories to be shared about the musical tools and musical stories of survivors. He began collecting instruments played by people in concentration camps, in hideouts and in ghettos where they feared for their lives.
Working in his basement in Tel Aviv, he began restoring violins and other stringed instruments from the era. Since 2008, some 30 instruments he’s collected have been featured in Violins of Hope, a series of concerts, lectures and seminars (and now a book) built around sharing these stories.
This month, Violins of Hope comes to Arizona, presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. The programming starts on February 3 with a photographic exhibit at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, to be followed by concerts on February 23 (Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts) and 24 (Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church) featuring Gil Shaham.
Find more information and schedules at violinsofhopephoenix.com.