Violins with a story marked in wood

Violins of Hope perform with string instruments preserved from WWII to remember victims


Photo Courtesy of Fiona Xie

This violin is part of the Violins of Hope project that was recently displayed at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.

In the course of history, through war, pain, and violence, the belongings that were valued most were left behind.
During World War II, prized violins, cellos and violas were an exception that now store history in their wood, and importance in their strings.
With these precious instruments comes beautiful music, and the stories of the past.
The Violins Of Hope project aims to tell these stories with a private collection of string instruments through concerts where musicians perform using violins, cellos and violas that have been collected since the end of World War II.
A majority of these instruments belonged to Jewish people before and even during WWII. All of the instruments are part of a private foundation. The Violins Of Hope performances spread their story across the nation.
Recently, the project performed in Livermore and will be at Cal High on Friday.
Cal junior Fiona Xie, who has been part of the Livermore Symphony for two years, said the local symphony is partnering with the East Bay Holocaust Education Center for their performance at Cal.
The concert will be in the school theater from 1:50-2:30 p.m. for sophomore English and world history students.
Although Xie will not be performing at the Cal concert with the symphony, she is preparing for other shows in the Bay Area. Despite practicing for these performances, she feels it’s important to learn about the history behind the instruments.
“Unlike other historical instruments, they’re not put into a museum, but rather they are continually shared and played,” said Xie, who has played violin for five years. “Their sounds are heard by people around the world.”
According to The Violins Of Hope website the instruments are a way to say, “remember me, remember us, life is good, celebrate it for those who perished for those who survived, for all people.”
The project exhibited about 60 instruments with each having their own story and tale signifying how they are different from the others.
During World War II the Nazis confiscated many instruments from Jewish people in ghettos and camps. The Violins of Hope project believes that playing music is the answer to the Nazis’ desire to annihilate freedom and human lives. Many Jewish people played violins, violas and cellos as a message of hope regardless of the Nazis actions.
To make sure the violins are in good shape and ready to perform, father and son violin makers Amnon and Amnon Veinstein own this very special collection. They dedicate their time to make sure that the watered down, damaged and cheap violins get repaired.
“The sound of violins is often compared to the beauty of the human voice. It is known to reach out and touch hearts,” according to the Violins of Hope website.
More than six million Jewish people lost their lives in the Holocaust during World War II, and Violins Of Hope makes sure their memory will live long past the injustice they experienced. Their memory lives on with every key, every string and every tune produced, with the meaningful and special instruments.
By themselves, they have so much to say, so much to share.
“It’s a once in a high school experience,” assistant principal Jeff Osborn said of the performance. “Violins of Hope is a renowned organization and they don’t come around to the East Bay very often.”
This is the first time Violins of Hope project has visited Cal.
“I’m looking forward to having our students experience the violins concert,” Osborn said.
In addition to concerts, the Violins of Hope project exhibits about 20 to 30 instruments at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland. The display of each instrument includes a story of how it reached the museum.
The project also visits educational centers such as schools to share the message on the importance of the instruments. Narrated concerts are also performed, allowing the significance of some of the instruments being played to be explained to the audience.
The Violins Of Hope concert at Cal will include a short movie, slide presentation, and a couple of music selections performed by 2-3 professional musicians using the instruments from World War II.
Although sophomore English and world history students have priority for the performance, the event is open to other fifth period classes regardless of the grade level if teachers want to take their students.