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Arts & Culture

UNC Charlotte Professor Discusses Book On Holocaust Violins

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The stories of violins recovered from the Holocaust and the people who played them are the focus of an event this evening at UNC Charlotte. Music professor James Grymes will read from his book, “Violins of Hope.” He was inspired to write the book two years ago when the violins were part of an exhibit on campus.  That exhibit marked the first time the violins were on display in the U.S. His research included a visit to the Israeli violinmaker who restored the violins.

“Going and visiting Amnon Weinstein’s workshop in Tel Aviv was one of the most miraculous experiences of my life,” Grymes says. “Seeing those violins for myself, holding them in my hands, and thinking about what those violins and their owners had been through together was a very moving experience.”

Grymes says the research affected him. Often, he found it difficult to simply turn off his computer and move on with daily life. But he says he didn’t inject those feelings into the book.

“It didn’t need dramatization,” Grymes says. “It didn’t need me to say ‘tens of thousands of gruesome deaths.’ Tens of thousands of deaths stands on its own and doesn’t need me as an author to fill it out.”

He says the music played on these violins served a crucial role in the survival of many concentration camp prisoners. The music gave them hope.

“When people walk out from the stories and music from the Violins of Hope event, I hope they leave with a wide understanding of the important role that music played during the Holocaust – to save lives, but also to help people hold onto their hope for better times,” Grymes says.

Tonight’s event starts at 7:30 in UNC Charlotte’s Belk Theater. The event will include UNC Charlotte students playing the same music that was performed in concentration camps.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, with support from the Wells Fargo Foundation.