These Holocaust-Era Violins Will Play Again for the 70th Anniversary of Auschwitz’s Liberation

Amnon Weinstein collects and restores violins from Nazi Germany.

On Tuesday night, the sounds of violins will resonate throughout the hall of the Berlin Philharmonic to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The orchestra will be playing instruments once owned by Holocaust survivors, collected and restored by violinmaker Amnon Weinstein, who owns Violins of Hope. For the past 21 years, Weinstein has been tracking down the Holocaust-era instruments and fixing them up so that they make music again.

“I am trying to do a monument,” Weinstein said to the BBC. “In the beginning it’s for my family and then to everyone that cannot speak anymore. The violins are playing and sounding for them.”

One of the violins he owns is inscribed with a swastika on the inside. Another was filled with ash. The Auschwitz camp was home to its own orchestra, which played music to amuse the guards. Weinstein says that they were also forced to play to deceive incoming prisoners.

“In the time of the war, the Germans used this instrument to cheat the Jewish people. When people came from the train to one of these camps, and then there was the guy playing the violin, so everybody said, ‘ah, nothing can happen here. A violin is playing,’” said Weinstein to the BBC. “But then the next 15 meters, it was a gas chamber.”