Story by Grace Potts and videography by Leah Wilkinson 

Dr. James A. Grymes shared stories of restored violins from the Holocaust with the Bellarmine community Wednesday at the 2019 Guarnaschelli Lecture. 

Violins of Hope is a program that recognizes the impact of the use of violins during the Holocaust. According to Grymes, some people played in an orchestra in concentration camps. Grymes told of who some of the violins had once been played by and their individual experiences during World War II. 

“One’s ability to play the violin made the difference between whether they lived or perished,” he said. 

Grymes, an instructor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said the school received 18 violins in 2012 and the collection has grown since. 

Avshalom Weinstein, who along with his father, Amnon Weinstein, locates and restores those violins was also at the lecture. 

Weinstein said: “I was listening to Jay because he actually did the real research. We did the work, but he did the research behind the violins so every time I catch one more thing I forgot, or I didn’t know, it’s always good fun to be with him [Grymes] and do these things.”

Both the Bellarmine and Louisville communities attended the event. 

Bellarmine freshman Steven Ritter said he thought the program was an interesting way to tell the stories of the Holocaust.

“I’d never heard these stories before. I never knew about these violins before,” he said.

Bellarmine junior Maddie Horton said, “I think it’s really important to learn from our past and he definitely touched on that – that if we don’t learn from it, how are we going to correct our mistakes that could come again?”

David Lipp, Cantor Congregation Adath Jeshurun, said he was glad to be able to talk with Grymes after readings his book, “Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust – Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour,” which was published in 2014.

“I had some questions for him and to actually get to talk to talk to an author and ask the question that you have is really a wonderful thing,” Lipp said.

Sister Sarah Delaney, an Ursuline Sister, said, “I taught with Fred Whittaker (Holocaust educator at St. Francis Assisi) at the cathedral last night and gave the talk for the Christian aspect of working for this. Just meeting these people has been wonderful.”

Jane Hallidaye, an adjunct faculty member in Bellarmine’s music department, performed with one of the restored violins. 

 Hallidaye said one of her teachers had survived the Holocaust and it meant a lot to her to be able to play that violin. 

Grymes said, “It was a really special night. It was a great crowd and just wonderful to be able to share these stories with so many great people.” 

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