Foreign Minister Steinmeier presented the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Jewish violin maker Amnon Weinstein on Wednesday evening (14 December). Weinstein restores violins that belonged to former concentration camp inmates, instruments that are performed on in the Violins of Hope concert series.
Steinmeier: “A wonderful project”
“Amnon Weinstein has made a wonderful project his life’s work”, said Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the presentation ceremony in the Jewish Museum. As a violin maker based in Tel Aviv, Weinstein collected and restored violins owned by former concentration camp inmates and conducted research into their owners’ stories.
Weinstein hails from a family of Lithuanian Jews, and he initially found it difficult to come to terms with the instruments’ legacy. Too great and too dark are the horrors to which the instruments bore witness, too close and sad the personal loss of family members in the Shoah.
“I am therefore all the more humble and grateful for Amnon Weinstein’s willingness to bring these precious violins, which he has so lovingly collected, restored and preserved, to Germany”, said Steinmeier. Another reason why the Foreign Minister feels a special affinity with this topic is the fact that his family lived in Breslau (now Wrocław), which was a centre of Jewish life at the time. His family had to flee the war later on. Steinmeier visited Amnon Weinstein’s workshop in Tel Aviv together with his wife and daughter last year.
Violins of Hope concert
For Amnon Weinstein, the violins are not only collectors’ pieces, but are also used in performance. The instruments were performed on at the Violins of Hope concert at the Berliner Philharmonie on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January 2015. “Violins of Hope was a moving concert – redolent with pain and grief, but also with confidence and the unquenchable will to live”, said Steinmeier.
Further concerts are planned
The Violins of Hope are scheduled to appear at concerts in Germany in the future. An eyewitness recently related that the Dachau concentration camp’s inmates not only included numerous musicians and instrument makers, but also an entire orchestra from Lithuania. A concert is planned for 2018 at Dachau castle featuring violins from the Dachau concentration camp. These include the violin that belonged to the Austrian Erich Wieninger, who was imprisoned in Dachau in 1938, as well as the instrument played by Polish musician Abram Merczynski, who was brought to Dachau from Auschwitz in 1944.
The Violins of Hope will therefore continue to be a project that moves people, promotes historical research and keeps the memory of the victims of the Holocaust alive. At the end of the ceremony, Steinmeier said the following: “The fact that Jewish life is flourishing in Germany once again, back at the heart of the country, is a miracle and a blessing. Jewish life belongs here.”