RICHMOND, Va. -- The Violins of Hope exhibit and concert series featuring restored violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust offer a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" experience for performers and audiences.
The legacy of the stringed instruments are still vivid for Dr. Roger Loria, who lived through the Holocaust and is the lone survivor from his father's side of his family.
"I was too young, I was in the camps from the age of three," Loria explained. "It’s my life history, but Jews could carry a violin you could not carry a piano, and that’s what they carry everywhere."
Those who survived were able to save some of the violins. In fact, over 60 of the instruments have been restored.
"So Amnon Weinstein, who is Avshi Weinstein's father, helped to repair all of these violins, which were in terrible shape after the holocaust," Virginia Holocaust Executive Director Samuel Asher said. "Some were hidden. The violin behind me the violin from Leon was pushed out of a train when someone was being taken to a concentration camp."
The Violins of Hope exhibit will be on display at The Virginia Holocaust Museum, the Black History Museum and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
"All the museums will have different sets of violins," Asher explained. "There will be seven here which you see behind me, there will be seven at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture and five at the Black History Museum."
Richmond Symphony musicians will perform using some of the violins at concerts on Sept. 9 and 10. at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Musician Jennifer Arnold’s choice is a violin played by a child.
"It means that I’m connected to someone who is in one of inhumanity's worst parts of history," Arnold said. "And that this instrument was played by someone who suffered a lot... When I play, I think about that."
Richmond Symphony Concert Master Daisuke Yamamoto called playing the instruments surreal.
"You come across old instruments quite a bit in your life, especially as a violinist," Yamamoto said. "But to be able to hold and play this kind of specific history I think is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Asher hopes visitors who attend the concerts also come to the educational programs.
"The more people learn about the Holocaust, the less likely they are to be involved in racism or anti-Semitism or other forms of intolerance," Asher said.
Violins of Hope is open through Oct. 24. For more information on the exhibit and concert series, visit ViolinsofHopeRVA.com.