Violins of Hope make their way from World War II to Louisville

Violins of Hope tell the stories of musicians who played during the Holocaust

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - They tell the stories of musicians who played softly in the dark barracks of death camps or in the concentration camp orchestras during the atrocities of World War II.

Restored violins played by Jews during the Holocaust can be seen and heard at more than 30 events, exhibits, performances and experiences all over WAVE Country. The violins are touring cities in Europe, Israel and the United States to facilitate a city dialogue about music, art, social injustice and free expression.

“These violins are like living artifacts,” said Jeffrey Jamner, the son of Holocaust survivors and a part of Louisville’s Violins of Hope program.

It is a collection of more than 60 instruments restored by master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshi. It took the pair nearly two decades to piece each instrument back together again. Some of the violins are now able to spread their story through music again.

“This is a collection of violins that survived the Holocaust, were played during the Holocaust at concentration camps as people were marching to their deaths,” said Andy Treinen, Vice President of Frazier Kentucky History Museum, where some of the violins are on display. “The music is a way to bring 6 million people’s memories back to life again.”

Many of the violins survived while many of the musicians did not.

“These violins in particular that sat silent for decades are now allowed to sing for us and bring their stories with them,” Jamner said.

With the help of the Center for Interfaith Relations, Jewish Federation of Hope and many individuals in Louisville, there are events all over the city to bring people of all different faiths, races and backgrounds together for discussion on several topics. Click here to find the schedule.

“We built it on this concept that comes from the Jewish faith called Tikkun Olam, and it means acts of kindness to repair the world,” said Sarah Reed, from the Center of Interfaith Relations, one of the many groups responsible for creating the programs around the violins and their stories.

Violinist Sara Callaway was brought to tears just touching one of the Violins of Hope.

“It’s really powerful,” Callaway said. “When you play an instrument and when you play music, you’re really connecting on a really emotional level that can’t really be described.”

Each violin has its own stories, bruises and secrets. Many of the restored violins cannot be played due to their condition when found, but they are still celebrated as part of the collection.

“The many hands that it went through, the sounds, the music, the escape that it provided ... I’m sure the beauty that it put into the world in a terrible time,” Callaway said as she held the violin she will play on Oct. 22 at Cathedral of the Assumption during “Repairing The World Through Music and Story: An Interfaith Evening of Healing and Hope.”

As she played a tune, the warm tones of the violin were still able to evoke a feeling of healing, restoration, peace and hope.

“The violins remind us the very best that humans are capable of,” Jamner said. “As we face the inhumanity, we are capable as well.”

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