The “Violins of Hope” international series of concerts was started by Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein when he was approached in 1996 to restore a violin that had been played by a man interred in one of World War II’s concentration camps. Weinstein, whose parents fled Europe in 1938 only to learn later of the death of more than 400 relatives, felt a connection to bring the violin back to life. After restoring the first violin, he actively sought out other violins that had been played in the concentration camps orchestras. There are now 30 violins that have been restored.
The violin has been an important participant in Jewish culture for centuries, both as a popular instrument with classical Jewish musicians—Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman—and also a central factor of social life. Many of the Nazi concentration camps had inmate orchestras. For many of those imprisoned there, the thought that wherever there was a violin, there was hope sustained them during that very dark time in the world’s history. “For the Jews, who were forbidden to pray,” said Weinstein, “the violin is sacred.”
Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust, narrated by Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody, is a documentary featuring Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein and his efforts to restore violins recovered from the Holocaust.