The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:00 am

Violins over violence

City to host unique Holocaust remembrance

Chuck Surack

Violins of Hope is a collection of restored instruments played by Jewish musicians during the time of the Holocaust. These instruments have survived concentration camps, pogroms and many long journeys to tell remarkable stories of justice and free expression.

After growing up to become one of the most respected violin makers in the world, the Israeli Amnon Weinstein was determined to reclaim his lost heritage. Twenty years ago, he started locating violins that had been played by Jews in the camps and ghettos, painstakingly piecing them back together so they could be brought to life again on the concert stage. He dedicated this important work to 400 relatives he never knew, all murdered by Nazi Germans.

For Weinstein, these violins are like memorials: Each is like the tombstone for a missing grave, for bodies that were burnt to ashes and that were denied a burial. But they are also symbols of promise – so he gave his collection the name “Violins of Hope.”

Although most of the musicians who originally played these instruments were silenced by the Holocaust, their voices live on through the violins that Weinstein has lovingly restored.

Violins of Hope Fort Wayne will be one of the most novel and groundbreaking collaborations of its kind ever to be presented here; the event is scheduled for Nov. 9-23.

Under the direction of lead partners the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Violins of Hope Fort Wayne is a communitywide commemoration that tells of the defiance, resilience and legacy of those brave musicians through plays, concerts, readings, dinners, receptions, cinema, lectures, panel discussions, media events and various civic gatherings. Violins of Hope will dominate the cultural conversation in Fort Wayne this November.

In addition, a team of 20 docents has been trained to canvass the region with a series of educational presentations. An exhibition of the violins will be on display at the University of Saint Francis and Fort Wayne Museum of Art, educational concerts will be performed in middle and high schools throughout a multicounty area, and an interactive website has been developed.

But, most importantly, Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Youth Orchestra musicians will bring to life the humanity and stories of those who owned these precious instruments through dozens of local and area performances.

Violins of Hope is also a showcase of the very best Fort Wayne has to offer. Nearly 30 cultural and civic organizations, with support from Mayor Tom Henry and the City of Fort Wayne, will take center stage in a series of high-quality free and affordable events, erasing barriers of access so everyone can enjoy them.

Great art should remind us that heroic aspirations will always remain a cause for optimism, for hope – and that a wellspring of beauty can emerge even from morally desolate barbarism. And through arts and culture this November, we have a rare opportunity to further our understanding of the Holocaust while highlighting human behavior “from ultimate evil to ultimate good.”

This is one of the most extensive commemorations I can ever remember in the history of this community, one that serves the “ultimate good.” I urge everyone to take full advantage of the amazing opportunities Violins of Hope Fort Wayne will offer. 

Chuck Sur-ack is board chair of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

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