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August 6, 2021 12:02 pm
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Restored Violins Played by Jewish Musicians in Holocaust Showcased at Virginia Museums, Concerts

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Israeli master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein holding one of the restored violins that is part of the “Violins of Hope” collection. Photo: Violins of Hope.

A collection of restored violins that were previously played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust are currently being showcased at three museums in Richmond, Virginia.

The “Violins of Hope” collection includes more than 60 instruments that have been restored. They went on display Wednesday at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, the Black History Museum and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. All the museums have different violins, and they will be featured through Oct. 24.

Richmond Symphony musicians will perform with some of the violins at concerts on Sept. 9 and 10 at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a local CBS news affiliate reported. Lectures and educational programs will also be held to teach people about the violins and the Holocaust.

Virginia Holocaust Museum Executive Director Samuel Asher said he hopes people will attend because “the more people learn about the Holocaust, the less likely they are to be involved in racism or antisemitism or other forms of intolerance.”

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Richmond Symphony Concert Master Daisuke Yamamoto explained that playing the instruments is a unique experience for the Symphony’s musicians. “You come across old instruments quite a bit in your life, especially as a violinist,” he said. “But to be able to hold and play this kind of specific history I think is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Musician Jennifer Arnold will play a violin that once belonged to a child and commented, “it means that I’m connected to someone who is in one of inhumanity’s worst parts of history. And that this instrument was played by someone who suffered a lot… When I play, I think about that.”

Israeli master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein, who lost 400 of his relatives in the Holocaust, has dedicated the last 20 years to locating and restoring violins played by Jews in Holocaust concentration camp orchestras, forest hideouts and ghettos. He works with his son to restore the violins “as a way to reclaim their lost heritage, give a voice to the victims, and reinforce positive messages of hope and harmony,” according to the collection’s website.

He also leads a team that promotes concerts and educational projects about the violins worldwide.

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