MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – Violins of Hope is a national organization that exhibits nearly 100 violins and other string instruments that survived the Holocaust and have since been restored.  

The organization has made their way to the Ohio Valley to tell the untold stories of Holocaust victims and survivors. 

Violins of Hope is partnering with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, who visited John Marshall High School Tuesday to present details about the violins and the connection between music and the Holocaust.  

JMHS students heard stories of several Holocaust survivors and how the WSO plans to collaborate with Violins of Hope to perform a reflective and powerful show this Thursday, Oct. 19 at the Capitol Theatre in Downtown Wheeling.

Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany murdered nearly 6 million Jewish people, and forever changed the lives of millions of others who fled the country.

Austrian Composer Walter Bricht fled the Nazis after learning about his unknown Jewish heritage and is one of the main stories being told during the WSO’s show.   

“I will be having the incredible honor of conducting the first performance of the Walter Bricht Second Piano Concerto, which is a piece that was lost to time when this composer fled the Nazis in 1938. He landed in West Virginia, of all places.” 

Michael Ellis Ingram | Composer

Ingram says Thursday’s show has been over two years in the making, taking countless hours of research.  

The piece Ingram is conducting by Bricht at the Capitol Theatre was found in Vienna, Austria archives and has never been heard by the public before.  

Two JMHS violinists got the opportunity to play a violin made around the 1930s that once belonged to a Jewish prisoner. Finding the words to describe and deal with the terrors Nazi’s imposed on Jewish people was difficult, so they turned to music.

Holocaust prisoners often played their violins while people were being imprisoned, in concentration camps and possibly before being put to death. 

Sofiah Pozenske is a senior violinist at John Marshall and says playing the violin was a very special moment for her.  

“I feel like it’s very emotional overall. Like when I was playing the instrument, I just could kind of like feel the depth of its story. So that was really cool.” 

Sofiah Pozenke | JMHS Senior, Violinist

Alina Holliday is a sophomore violinist and said she is so grateful for the once in a lifetime opportunity.  

“I just appreciated the opportunity. I don’t think I’ll ever get to do something like that again, so it was very special.” 

Alina Holliday | JMHS Sophomore, Violinist

John Devlin, WSO’s music director shared the inspiration behind partnering with Violins of Hope and doing community events like the one hosted at JMHS.

“We’ve been planning this concert for over two years in tribute to something that happened over 70 years ago. And now with the added importance of what’s going on in the Middle East today, there’s many dimensions that allow us to remember that art mirrors history, and we must remember that history if we are to better our society. So, we want to spread a message of love and joy, understanding, and most of all – hope.” 

John Devlin | Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director

The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra will be performing Violins of Hope this Thursday at the Capitol Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m.  

There will 13 restored violins at the theatre, 12 will be on display starting around 6 p.m. and one will be played during the show along with other restored string instruments from Holocaust prisoners.  

Violins of Hope is also showing their collection of restored instruments in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Carnegie Mellon University now until Nov. 26. More details about when you can view the collection cab be found on their website.