Violins of Hope

Event series coming to Louisville will honor stories of the Holocaust


Courtesy Photos

This month, Louisvillians will get to experience 10 days of concerts, exhibits and free programs dedicated to the Violins of Hope, a collection of instruments that were played during and survived the Holocaust. The series of events will take place Oct. 17-26 throughout the community. To learn more about the Violins of Hope and their appearance in Louisville, we spoke with Master Violinmaker Avshalom Weinstein and Program Director Miriam Ostroff. 

Avshalom “Avshi” Weinstein, Master Violinmaker.

What inspired your father to begin restoring these remarkable instruments? What inspired you to join him? 

“It all began when my father received a request to do a lecture about the violins in Germany in 1999, and from that, he continued to grow the collection. I have been working in his workshop since I was a child, so that’s how I got involved. I love woodworking and tinkering with things.” 

What has it been like working alongside him and sharing them with the world? 

“Very difficult. [Laughs] Working alongside your father isn’t always easy. But it has great benefits and it’s good fun. It’s important work.” 

Why is it so important for people around the world to see and learn about the Violins of Hope? 

“If people don’t remember what has happened in the past, they forget. If they forget, they might make the same mistakes again. As we get further and further from the holocaust, there are fewer survivors and firsthand accounts of what happened. These instruments serve as a reminder.” 

Which event(s) are you most looking forward to sharing with the Louisville community?

“Each and every one of them. They are all important, especially the educational events within the schools. This may be the first time that the students hear stories from the holocaust and that’s very important.

“I hope this program will make a difference. I hope that people will come out to the events to listen and learn what we have to say. And, I hope they go home and keep learning more than what I’m able to provide in the short time that I’ll be there.”

Miriam Ostroff, Program Director.

How did you learn about the Violins of Hope? What inspired you to help bring this program to Louisville?

“I first heard about the Violins of Hope from a friend who was involved with their appearance in Florida. By chance, several weeks later, I also saw a PBS special about the Violins of Hope. After that, I knew I had to get them to Louisville. It was immediately important to me that our community be made aware of their story and significance to our lives now. I just had to figure out how to make it happen. With the help of many passionate community leaders and organizations – including the Jewish Federation of Louisville, Frazier History Museum and Louisville Orchestra – the vision came to life.” 

Why is it so important for Louisvillians to see and learn about these instruments?

“These instruments are a memorial to more than six million victims of the Holocaust. Each violin was owned and played by an identifiable victim. Therefore, the instruments are now tangible survivors of that event. They serve as very powerful evidence that the Holocaust did in fact happen, and that it can never happen again. Out of the horrors of the Holocaust, these instruments that witnessed it now provide beautiful music for people today. They symbolize what we should learn from their history – to value tolerance and diversity, not ignore it. Everyone needs to be reminded of this, especially the youth in our community. That’s why special efforts are being made to bring this programming to local schools.” 

Which event(s) are you most looking forward to experiencing?

“We will host more than 30 free events throughout the 10-day initiative, culminating with a wonderful concert from the Louisville Orchestra. We will have something that is appropriate for every age group, and each event appeals to various interests. Perhaps most intriguing will be the display of the instruments at the Frazier History Museum. When you walk through and see the violins all around you, their significance becomes very real. 

“I am so grateful for the support from community leaders and organizations for making this possible. Their help has been critical, both creatively and financially. I hope that everyone can come out and experience the Violins of Hope while they are in Louisville.” 

For more information, including a full list of events, visit www.ViolinsOfHopeLou.com.