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‘Music is one way we’re all united’: ‘Violins of Hope’ exhibit on display at 3 Richmond museums

Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 12:08 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After a year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Violins of Hope” exhibit showcasing instruments played by Jewish musicians who survived the Holocaust are now on display in Richmond.

This is the exhibit’s first appearance in the Mid-Atlantic region and will be in Richmond at three museums for 12 weeks from Aug. 4 to Oct. 24, 2021.

Nearly 20 violins will be on display at the following museums:

  • Virginia Holocaust Museum
    • Violin from Lyon
    • Haftel violin
    • Feivel Wininger violin
    • Yaakov Weinstein violine – a klezmer violin
    • Yaacov Zimermann
    • Auschwitz violin
    • Buried violin
  • Virginia Museum of History & Culture
    • Dachau violin
    • Moshe Weinstein violin
    • Bielski violin
    • Erich Weininger violin
    • Morpurgo violin
    • Violin with a Star of David – a klezmer violin
    • Jacob Hakkert violin
  • Black History Museum
    • The Barnea violin
    • The Wedding violin
    • Simermann/Star of David violin
    • Prison of War violin
    • The Barns violin

The stories embedded in the body of these wooden instruments are filled with perseverance.

“For them, music was not only a means of survival but also to keep their spirits up,” said Daisuke Yamamoto, Concertmaster for the Richmond Symphony.

All of the violins belonged to Jews before and during the World War II era. While they belonged to different individuals, they all have one thing in common - hope and determination.

The instruments were played in some of the most unfathomable places in human history, including Auschwitz.

Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, but Avshalom “Avshi” Weinstein believes it is important to go beyond the numbers.

“When we go through the single stories of different people it relates a little bit more to the younger generation,” Weinstein said.

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope(Violins of Hope)

It’s why Weinstein’s father, Amnon, started collecting and restoring these vessels of hope from survivors of the Holocaust.

The latter is an Israeli violin shop owner and master craftsman who lost 400 family members in the Holocaust.

“My father was determined to reclaim his lost heritage,” Avshi said. “He started locating violins that were 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 and serve as a symbol of hope.”

The touring exhibit is now on display at three of Richmond’s museums

“It really brings it to a personal level, and I really think that’s what history is,” said Andrew Talkov, Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

“Music is one way we are all united,” said Mary Lauderdale, Museum Manager at the Black History Museum. “It transcends race, religion, nationality, you find beauty everywhere in music.”

On Sept. 9, the Richmond Symphony will hold a special concert at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart; some musicians will perform with some of these restored violins.

“[It’s] a lot of responsibility,” Yamamoto said. “To be able to hold and play a violin with this kind of specific history I think is a once in a lifetime experience and something that will stick with me for the rest of my career.”

“It’s a very innovative way to tell that story in a way that’s not depressing, in a way that has elegance and dignity,” said William Rasmussen, Senior Museum Collections Curator at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

Bringing these stories to life also serves as another teaching point.

“Studies have shown, the more people know about the Holocaust and learn about the Holocaust the less likely they are to be involved in white supremacist activities or racist activities,” said Samuel Asher, Executive Director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

However, ultimately, the music resonating through these violins from then to now helps remind us of the strength it takes to have hope, even in the toughest times.

“The human spirit always perseveres in one way or another and always comes through in the end,” Yamamoto said. “I think these violins are a symbol of that.”

For information on tickets and to get a downloadable Teacher’s Guide, click here.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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