Amnon Weinstein has spent the last two decades locating and restoring
violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust.
He dedicates this important work to 400 relatives he never knew. These
grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins stayed behind in Eastern Europe
when Amnon’s parents, Moshe and Golda, immigrated in 1938 to Palestine,
where Moshe opened a violin shop.
After the war, Moshe learned that his entire family —400 in all—had been murdered during the Holocaust.
The pain of this discovery led to his first heart attack.
Moshe never spoke of his family again.
When young Amnon would ask Golda about their relatives, she would show
him a book about the Holocaust. Pointing to the ghastly photos of the dead,
she would say, “This is our family.”
She would break down in tears, unable to explain further.
After growing up to become one of the most respected violin makers in the world, Amnon became determined to reclaim his lost heritage. He started locating violins that were played by Jews in the camps and ghettos, painstakingly piecing them back together so they could be brought to life again on the concert stage. Although most of the musicians who originally played the instruments were silenced by the Holocaust, their voices and spirits live onthrough the violins that Amnon has lovingly restored.
He calls these instruments the Violins of Hope.
Amnon Weinstein, Israeli master violinmaker leads the team promoting concerts and educational projects concerning the violins around the world. He has devoted the last 20 years to locating and restoring the violins of the Holocaust as a tribute to those who were lost, including 400 of his own relatives. He calls these the Violins of Hope.
Amnon was born in 1939, one year after his parents immigrated to Palestine. His father, Moshe, was a violinist and luthier and Amnon followed in his father's footsteps, becoming one of the finest luthiers in the world.
He studied in Cremona, Italy with Pietro Sgarabotto, Guiseppe Ornati and Ferdinando Garimberti. He also studied in Paris with Etienne Vatelot. He won a gold medal and a certificate of excellence for violin sound at Salt Lake City in 1982. He received the Medal of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, handed to him by Foreign Minister Walter Steinmeier at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, December 14, 2016. He also received numerous honors from Germany, Italy, France and is a member of the Violin Society of America. He served as a judge in the violinmakers competition in Salt Lake City in 1998.
In the late 1980's, a man who played the violin in Auschwitz visited Amnon and asked if he would restore his violin. This man had not played the instrument since leaving the camp and wanted to get it restored for his grandson.
Weinstein lovingly restored that first violin. From that day on, he had a new mission in life. He tracked down and restored scores of other violins played by Jews in ghettos, forest hideouts and concentration camp orchestras. For years, he worked alone in a cramped basement workshop in Tel Aviv, Israel. Then his son, Avshalom, added two more helping hands. Working together, they’ve now restored more than 60 violins as a way to reclaim their lost heritage, give a voice to the victims, and reinforce positive messages of hope and harmony.
Avshalom (Avshi) Weinstein
Avshalom (Avshi) Weinstein, a third-generation Israeli violinmaker, was trained by his father, Amnon, and began working in their workshop in 1998 as a violinmaker and restorer of violins, violas and cellos. He is trained in the tradition of the Italian Cremonese School of violinmakers and the French school of restoration.
Avshalom also joins his father at the Keshet Eilon Violin and Bow-making atelier at Keshet Eilon Master Class for young violinists each summer since 1998. Avshi has also trained with master bowmaker Daniel Schmidt from Dresden since 2009 and opened his own workshop in Instabul the same year.
Since Violins of Hope became a major force in Holocaust education, Avshi has traveled the world, and brought the collection to several US cities.
Together with local educators and musicians, he visits schools where youngsters often have their first introduction to the history of the Holocaust and also the opportunity to see and hold an instrument that has survived so much and represents history. Students who play the violin, often have an opportunity to play on these treasured instruments.
As the collection travels the United States, several instruments have been donated by family and friends. These instruments often need extensive restoration--done in the Tel Aviv workshop--before they become world class instruments. Silenced by the events of World War II, they have been given voice again and will live on forever to carry the message of survival and resilience.