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“The easiest way to teach and to talk about the Holocaust is through music,” Weinstein said. “Then you can open yourself a little bit more for all the atrocities that happened, to try to understand. You cannot understand. You can try a little bit to understand.

“After the war, everything changed in the world. Nothing is the same like it was before. A violin, it’s exactly the same like it was in 1500 when the first violins in the world were created.”

While Weinstein has restored more than 30 violins, Russell decided on 18 for the Charlotte exhibit because the Hebrew word for 18, chai, also means life.

Weinstein also has a few violins that he will never restore, including one he got about six weeks ago from a bow maker in Washington, D.C., who bought the instrument from a rabbi with the intention of restoring it. When he opened the violin, he found “Heil Hitler 1936” and a swastika scratched in the wood.

The bow maker offered it to Weinstein with much the same threat as those musicians delivered decades ago to his father: Take this or I will burn it.

“Send it to me as a gift, and the violin will stay open for eternity, never to be restored,” Weinstein responded.

The person who defaced the violin thought his aggressive scratches of hate would never be seen. “But it was such a degree of evil that they wanted this Jewish person to be playing a violin that in its soul was saying `Heil Hitler’ and had a swastika,” Russell said. “So that one deserves to never be played again.”

“Never,” Weinstein said.




Martha Waggoner can be reached at: