They would also play in the evening, when the prisoners returned, carrying on their fellow workers who did not survive the day of work and the SS soldiers' "motivation". Many of them with their eyes shut.
The Auschwitz orchestra players – another aspect of the death camp commanders' terror and humiliation against their Jewish prisoners.
An emotionally moving closure took place recently during the graduation ceremony of the "Edim Bemadim" (witnesses in uniform) project, when famous violinist Shlomo Mintz played one of the violins which belonged to a member of the ghetto orchestra in front of Israel Defense Forces cadets and officers.
In order to understand the connection between the world renowned violinist and the Auschwitz orchestra's violin, we must talk about Amnon Weinstein, a Tel Aviv violin builder, the second generation of violin builders and a very special person.
Weinstein decided more than a decade ago to collect violins lost or damaged during the Holocaust and renovate them. The idea came from one of his students, a young non-Jewish man who came to Israel in the mid 1990s from German and became a passionate Zionist.
"He's the one who told me that there are probably quite a few deserted violins which used to belong to murdered Jewish musicians, both in German and in other countries. I decided to look for them and renovate them after performing at an event dedicated to this issue in the city of Dresden," says Weinstein.
Violins of hope
Since then he has collected and renovated 28 violins. They came from people who kept them in their attic, people who didn't know what to do with the broken tools, which found their way to them under fascinating circumstances.
"The first violin I received belonged to fiddler Shimon Krongold from Warsaw. He bought it from violin builder Yaakov Zimmerman, who was my late father's teacher," says Weinstein. He adds that Zimmerman wrote in Yiddish on a note inside the violin, "This violin was created in 1924 for fiddler Shimon Krongold."
Krongold managed to escape from the Germans to the Soviet Union, but died in 1946 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The violin found its way to Israel and to Weinstein's collection, which he calls "Violins of Hope". The collection has been displayed in different exhibitions in Europe. "Naturally, I also visited Auschwitz with the collection and with Shlomo Mintz, who has been escorting me from day one," Weinstein recalls.
Mintz played the violin of the camp orchestra in Auschwitz as well. In 2007, on the Jerusalem walls, the esteemed violinist played two violins from Weinstein's collection.
Several weeks ago, at the Israel Air Force Center in Herzliya, he played three different violins at an "Edim Bemadim" ceremony. Weinstein and Mintz were linked to the important biennial project, by Lieutenant General Gideon Sharav, commander of the Tactical Command College and the son of Holocaust survivors.
As part of the project, IDF officers visit Nazi concentration camps accompanied by a Holocaust survivor, who tells them about the places and events from his own perspective. Some 150 officers, slated to become company commanders in the Ground Forces, took part in the project this year.
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