PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Orchestra instruments that survived the Holocaust are being restored and used to educate the public about the dangers of hate.
“Violins of Hope” project tells the stories of violins and the musicians that played them, some who died, others who survived one of the darkest times in history.
“Music has always been part of our family’s life,” said Dr. Daniel Storch, who lives in Phoenix.
Dr. Storch’s grandmother Elsa Katzenstein and mother Ruth Katzenstein were both skilled musicians.
Shortly after Kristallnacht, in January 1939, Elsa and her husband put their daughter, Ruth, who was 11 at the time, on a Kindertransport to Antwerp, Belgium.
“It was a matter of survival, it was an opportunity to flee Nazi Germany at the height of the war,” said Ruth Joseph, Elsa’s great granddaughter.
A Christian family cared for her there until her parents could send for her and bring Ruth safely to the United States later that year.
That summer, Ruth, Paul and their son, Henry (who was too old for the Kindertransport) left Hamburg directly for New York.
The family sold most of their possessions to pay for their escape but kept one of the family’s violins. The prized violin sat untouched at the Storch family home for nearly 50 years.
“We knew we wanted it restored but he was too afraid to hand it over to anybody because he was concerned about ever seeing it again,” said Elana Storch, Daniel’s Wife.
“From time to time, we’ve thought about having it restored. We just never knew where to go, who to bring it to especially here in Phoenix. A couple of years ago we heard about the “Violins of Hope” project,” said Dr. Storch.
“Violins of Hope” is a collection of instruments that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, founded by father and son luthiers from Israel named Amnon and Avshi Weinstein. The violin makers spend as much as a year carefully restoring these pieces of history to play again.
A friend connected the Weinsteins to the Storch family and within days Elana Storch flew to San Francisco to personally deliver their violin to be restored.
“I basically threatened him within an inch of his life if he should ever not keep a good eye on it,” said Elana Storch.
“Knock on wood it’s still safe,” said Avshi Weinstein.
“There are a few cracks that needs to be done some varnish restoration, other work on the neck and finger boards so there’s lots of work to be done,” he said.
It’s estimated that the Storch violin will take as much as a year to restore. It will then tour with “Violins of Hope” in 2020 before returning to the Storch family.
“The violin is a port of entry to understanding the whole history of the Holocaust and in the broader stance understanding what happens when societies get overwhelmed with racism or discrimination,” said Dr. Storch.
“Six million Jewish people were killed can you see what is six million? Do you know this number? Can we understand this number? Never. But when you see one violin you know this is the story of one man and we are telling the story of the man and we are hearing the violin the holocaust is coming to life and for the children it is important because they must learn what hatred could do,” said Amnon Weinstein.
The project which aims to educate future generations about tolerance.
“The most important thing I can do to my work that I want to do in my work saving all these instruments is to shout, not to say, to shout, never again and these are the instruments that can say it. This is wonderful, this is humanity, we want to be together, we want to do something for the sake of the future and it begins with a very simple thing, music,” said Amnon Weinstein.
As part of the project, 50 violins have been restored to play again by musicians who perform the instruments for audiences.
The “Violins of Hope” project is on display at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts through March.
For more information, visit: violinsofhopephoenix.com.