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Arts & Culture

Violins Of Hope: Strings Of The Holocaust

Violinmaker Amnon Weinstein in his Tel Aviv shop showing one of the restored Violins of Hope.
Courtesy of Debra Yasinow
Violinmaker Amnon Weinstein in his Tel Aviv shop showing one of the restored Violins of Hope.

Airs Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

For Jews during the Holocaust, there wasn't much reprieve from the despair and horror surrounding them, but music — particularly that of violins, which hold an important role in Jewish culture — offered temporary solace and a glimmer of humanity.

Violinists in concentration camps were sometimes treated better and even spared their lives because of their ability to play this important instrument.

Narrated by Adrien Brody ("The Pianist" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel"), "Violins Of Hope: Strings Of The Holocaust" follows the journey of Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein in his efforts to restore violins recovered from the Holocaust, and captures the lessons and highlights the music the instruments now bring to others.

These special artifacts from the Holocaust, which Weinstein has dubbed the "Violins of Hope," include instruments that were played by Jewish prisoners in concentration camps and others that belonged to the Klezmer musical culture.

The program chronicles the journey of the instruments from Weinstein's small workshop in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he has worked for two decades to repair the violins to Cleveland, where they were brought in 2015.

During this U.S. visit, the violins were on display for the community as part of a traveling exhibit, used as teaching tools in classrooms, and played by music students and orchestras.

A student visiting the "Violins of Hope" exhibit at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Ohio.
Courtesy of WVIZ
A student visiting the "Violins of Hope" exhibit at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Ohio.

The winner for "Best Documentary" at the 2016 Vienna Independent Film Festival, the film captures the powerful sights, sounds, reflections and conversations brought about by those who were touched by these violins.

The documentary culminates in a concert by The Cleveland Orchestra featuring the violins of hope at the opening of Silver Hall in the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center, a former Jewish temple that was lovingly restored and given a new life— just like the violins.

The Cleveland Orchestra played a concert featuring the violins, and honoed the work of violinmaker Amnon Weinstein. Violin virtuoso Shlomo Mintz was the featured soloist during this performance, led by Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst as part of the opening of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Center for the Performing Arts at Case Western Reserve University.
By Roger Mastroianni, Courtesy of The Cleveland
The Cleveland Orchestra played a concert featuring the violins, and honoed the work of violinmaker Amnon Weinstein. Violin virtuoso Shlomo Mintz was the featured soloist during this performance, led by Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst as part of the opening of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Center for the Performing Arts at Case Western Reserve University.

Presented by WVIZ / PBS ideastream. Distributed by American Public Television.