We wanted to let you know that the Violins of Hope concerts in South Carolina last month were a huge success. Thanks to all of you for your prayers, support, and attendance! Shelle Neese spoke at the concert in Myrtle Beach and Amy Zewe spoke at the concert in Charleston. Todd Smith from Liberty University curated the art exhibit of The Auschwitz Album Revisited by the late Pat Mercer Hutchens at both venues. And a big thank you for the “all-hands-on-deck” mentality of our volunteers in Charleston: Peter Lukschander, Marilyn Henretty, Mary Edwards, and Cynthia McKain.
The concert series started off as the dream of one Christian woman, Ellen Thompson, who had a vision that she was meant to bring the restored violins of Holocaust victims to her home state of South Carolina. She and her ten-member board began the planning three years ago and the reach of the concert series grew, despite the many obstacles of organizing events and international travel during two years of a pandemic. Four South Carolina cities hosted the symphony concerts along with eleven smaller towns participating in extensions of the art and music on various scales.
Not only was the geographic scope of the concert series bigger than expected, but the number of collaborating performers grew to include the Long Bay Symphony, Violins of Hope, and Varna International. Together they shared the untold story of the heroic rescue of all of Bulgaria’s Jews during World War II with local musicians playing restored Holocaust violins set to the music of Bulgarian vocalists.
The Jerusalem Connection had a table near the art exhibit of The Auschwitz Album Revisited at both the Myrtle Beach and Charleston concerts. A flood of people, still heavy with the mixture of hope and grief from the concert, came to talk with us at the tables afterwards. Members of the Jewish community were so touched by the level of effort that went into the tribute. All expressed many thanks to those involved with Violins of Hope, South Carolina for giving them an opportunity to communally honor the victims of the Holocaust and to make a state-wide commitment to say, “Never Again!”
I want to share with you the story of just one of the eighty violins that were present in South Carolina so you might get a better understanding of why playing the restored violins of the Holocaust is just as much an act of honor:
In July 1942, thousands of Jews were arrested in Paris and sent by cattle trains to concentration camps in the East, most of them to Auschwitz. On one of the packed trains was a man holding a violin. When the train stopped somewhere along the sad roads of Lyon, France, the man heard voices speaking French. A few men were working on the railways and others walking at leisure. The man in the train cried out, “To the place where I now go – I do not need a violin. Here, take my violin so it may live!” The man threw his violin out of the narrow window. It landed on the rails and was picked up by one of the French workers. For many years, the violin had no life. No one played it. Years later, the worker passed away and his children found the abandoned violin in the attic. They soon looked to sell it to a local violin maker in the South of France and told him the story they heard from their father. The French violin maker heard about the Violins of Hope and gave it to Amnon Weinstein so that the violin would live.
Today, there are those who brazenly claim, despite The Auschwitz Album and other historical, irrefutable evidence, that the Holocaust is a myth, a lie. Those of us who are still alive must speak for the ones who cannot. Antisemitism is again rearing its ugly head worldwide. Once more, Jews are the target of choice to blame for the world’s problems, whether it is the global pandemic or the racial protests. The chapter of evil in the world is not over. It must be actively fought against still. And one way of continuing that fight, is remembering. Remembering is resistance.