For the past twenty years, Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein has devoted his time to the restoration of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Each violin has its own remarkable story as a liberator, comforter, savior, or an avenger, or perhaps as the only remaining memento of a dear relative. In Violins of Hope, musicologist James A. Grymes uses the violins in Weinstein’s collection to tell the stories of the musicians who played and heard them.
Grymes is careful not to overly romanticize the powerful role of music in the lives of Jewish prisoners. He offers an honest and balanced view, being sure to point out that there were some who resented the musicians or were troubled by their music. I was also struck by how vast and far-reaching the Holocaust was. It affected locations so much farther away than I’d realized, in ways I’d never considered. I discovered the continuing impact of the Holocaust, and why remembering its horrors has relevance today.
History and music history buffs will have a special interest in Violins of Hope, but Grymes’s writing style is accessible and engaging to all readers. His sentences are short and snappy, giving the book a fluidity and quick pace I didn’t expect with such a heavy topic. Yet Grymes manages to retain all of the emotions that come along with each violin’s story. He pulls you in to every single word and brings the topic to life. This book breathes. I actually had to set it aside and take a break for a few hours after reading about 12-year-old Motele Schlein. And when I reached the end and learned how things had come full circle for Amnon Weinstein, I was moved to tears.
I will never forget the stories in this book.
Check out James A. Grymes’s blog to learn more.