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David Russell

Violins From the Ashes

May 23, 2007 at 12:33 PM

I have a new project on the table. Its intense, so hold on...

My friend Amnon Weinstein is an Israeli violin maker. He creates beautiful sounding instruments worthy of great concert halls. He also collect violins--but these are special...

Old violins have a story to tell. They have passed through many player's hands over the years. If they could speak in words, they would certainly tell interesting stories. Sometimes they would tell happy stories. Other times, they might tell sad stories. Still other times---stories of the unimaginable.

Amnon Weinstein collects violins which were played by prisoners in the Nazi death camps of WWII. He knows the violin's history. He knows who their owners were-- and how they met their end. He knows the music that was played on them in places like Auschwitz for the amusement of the inhuman monsters who were lining up people for the gas chambers. The Nazi's allowed only "happy" music to be played (!) at such times, and as ironic and macabre as that was, being selected to play in the orchestras for those occasions meant the musicians would stay alive for at least one more day.

Not being willing to let death have the last word, Amnon has restored these instruments and collected the stories of their owners. He researched some of the music written in the camps by prisoners, and has created a musical program to match the violins. Ultimately, it is his joy to place these instruments into the hands of young contemporary violinists for a concert of  music which helps us remember, yet is actually an evening where hope overshadows sadness. In the concert,the former owners of these violins are remembered and their "voice" is heard yet again through their violins. How amazing! How meaningful! What a great reason to play the violin!

I am working to connect Amnon with a local museum of Jewish History and Culture and The Cleveland Institute of Music. I suspect the collaboration will be something extraordinary.

It will certainly be an evening of music with meaning--and without a doubt, there will be hope.


From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 3:41 PM
What a wonderful project! Thanks for sharing.
From Scott 68
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 4:23 PM
ever see the movie bach in auschwitz? its a doccumentary of people who played in alma rose's orchestra
From David Russell
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 4:50 PM

One of the portions of the concert is a recreation of Alma Rose's orchestra from Auschwitz. Din't know about the documentary. Have to look it up.

From Ray Randall
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 5:25 PM
Sounds like an outstanding and dedicated Luthier. I hope the poignant story gets told.
From Joe S.
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 7:51 PM

This sounds wonderful. To add to the "Bach in Auschwitz" comment, there is a book called "Alma Rose: Auschwitz," it is an biography that contains many first hand accounts of her playing there, and her experiences there before she met her unfortunate end. This is an exceptional way to showcase the fortitude of humanity, and the hope that has gotten us through terrible times. Let us know when the concert will happen, being a native Clevelander - I will certainly be there.

Joe S.

From Pieter Viljoen
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 9:13 PM
This project sounds great, and I really look forward to meeting Mr. Weinstein. He sounds like such an interesting person.
From Roelof Bijkerk
Posted on May 23, 2007 at 11:22 PM
certainly commendable

Why not go one step further and towards international goodwill have a concert with people from Daniel Barenboim's project to promote piece in the middle east

From David Russell
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 1:26 AM
Actually, Amnon is one of the directors of Keshet Eilon International Violin Mastercourse. One of the guiding philosophies of Keshet Eilon comes from the word "keshet" which means bow.
Bow, as in violin bow, archer's bow ---and importantly, the bow of a bridge (like a rainbow). There is the desire to create a bridge between cultures through that program.
The violins of the Holocaust provide a wonderful way to educate and inspire all people, regardless of their cultural heritage to seek life and beauty rather than the horror of evil and death.
So, it seems Keshet Eilon is truly building bridges.
From Pieter Viljoen
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 2:00 AM
yea, as you might have noticed I have a sort of fetish for fine instruments, so I have been looking forward to meeting Amnon Weinstein every since I considered going to Keshet Eilon. That and the archery are two things which I think set it apart from a lot of other places.

And yes, it's hard to forget the symbolism of the name Keshet Eilon. Given its place in the world, it's obviously getting at something and now it looks like it will do what it's supposed to beyond its borders.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 2:38 AM
That is a project of major proportions, strength, and beauty. I'm so glad that someone is working on it.
From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 2:48 AM
a worthy project indeed.
Bravo to all involved!
From Daniel Broniatowski
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 3:13 AM
This is a remarkable idea. I too, have an interest in music of the holocaust and will be interested to see where this goes.


From Raphael Klayman
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 3:23 AM
To put it in Hebrew - "kol hakavod"! (i.e. Bravo!)
From Clare Chu
Posted on May 26, 2007 at 7:51 PM
Yes, bravo and a very worthwhile projects. According to the book by Richard Newman, Alma's Guadagnini is with Nicholas Eyle in the United States. However it did not go to Auschwitz as friends of hers stored it in Holland and sent it to her father after the war. No one knows which instrument she played there. It could be one of the ones being featured for all we know.

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