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"Each violin that you are going to play, it’s for millions of people that are dead. This is victory. And each concert is a victory." —Amnon Weinstein

Weinstein is a violin maker who has spent his life locating and restoring violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust—many of whom perished in concentration camps. The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee brings Weinstein and 16 of those violins to town Feb. 1-16, for public concerts, talks, exhibition and more, under the title Violins of Hope.

Each violin has a story of its own; here, briefly, are two.

The Auschwitz violin was owned by an inmate who played in the main orchestra at the camp there, not far from the infamous sign that welcomed prisoners with the words, “Arbeit macht frei (Work sets you free).” The inmate survived the war and later sold the violin to Abraham Davidovitz, an Israeli soldier, who hoped his son Freddy would play it when he grew up.

Years later, Freddy heard about the Weinstein’s Violins of Hope project and donated the instrument to be restored. Now in perfect condition, the Auschwitz violin has since been played in concerts by top musicians from all over the world.

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The Heil Hitler violin, shown here, was marked inside with a swastika (below) by a German violin maker in 1936; it is displayed but never played.

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The Heil Hitler violin was repaired by a German violin maker in 1936 for a Jewish customer who apparently played it for years, unable to see that inside the violin, the violin maker had written “Heil Hitler 1936,” with an accompanying swastika. A few years ago, a Washington, D.C., bow maker opened the violin and saw the words and image inside. At first, he wanted to burn it, but he ended up giving it to the Violins of Hope project. However, this violin is used only for display; it deserves, Weinstein says, “never” to be played again.

For a complete schedule of events associated with Violins of Hope, click here

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