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November 7, 2019 3:12 pm

Montreal Concert Features ‘Violins of Hope’ That Survived Holocaust

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A violinist playing one of the “Violins of Hope” in Montreal. Photo: Screenshot.

Musicians at a concert in Montreal on Saturday played violins that once belonged to Holocaust survivors and victims.

The Orchestre Metropolitain used eight violins, part of the Violins of Hope collection, to play symphonies by famous composers Bach, Morlock, Mahler, Hamburger and Mendelssohn at the Maison Symphonique. The violins are part of a collection of more than 70 instruments owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Second World War.

Some of the violins belonged to amateur musicians, while others to professionals who were forced to play them to entertain Nazi guards in concentration camps or ordered to play them while marching to the gas chambers, according to CTV News. The violins were collected and restored by Israeli violin-maker Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom Weinstein.

The instruments range from 90 to 150 years old, according to Katia Dahan, the show’s producer.

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She said about the violins, “Everything has a story, but these have a really special story. They were owned by people … some perished, some did not perish during the Holocaust, but they did go through the Holocaust, so it’s very, very emotional to hear their voice again if I may say, today, it’s kind of bringing back the history.”

“It’s a sign of resilience; it’s a sign of hope and freedom,” Dahan added. “You know this violin went through something, and today it’s in Montreal, telling its story.”

One of the performers, Monica Duschenes, requested to play a violin called the Wagner Violin after researching its history and finding out that it may have been played by a former teacher of hers in 1936. She said some of her relatives died in World War II, making the concert “particularly meaningful” to her.

Holocaust survivor Fishel Goldig — who remembers hearing a violinist practice above him in the Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust, even though violins were forbidden there — attended Saturday’s concert and said about the Violins of Hope, “It was nice to see that the music lived on. I’m very grateful … it continues from generation to generation. We hope that the next generation, my children and grandchildren will be able to see these violins.”

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