Pope Francis has hand written a letter to his good friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires, marking Holocaust Memorial Day.
In Rome, the January 27 memorial will be marked by a concert entitled “Violins of Hope”, which will be held Monday evening (that’s right about now, for those of us here in the United States).
In his letter, Pope Francis calls the Holocaust “a horror and a disgrace to humanity” that must never be repeated. The letter will be read aloud at this evening’s concert, which will feature works by Barber, Vivaldi and Beethoven. But behind the sound of music, Pope Francis wrote, the heart of each of those present will be able to make out the silent sound of tears.
Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein had discovered and restored twelve violins which somehow avoided destruction during the Holocaust, including one which was thrown from a train en route to Auschwitz and another which accompanied the Jewish deportees to Auschwitz’ gas chambers. Tonight, these twelve violins will be played together.
The Holocaust victims’ violins were played together last year, in a concert at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, featuring the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo. At that concert (so perhaps at the Rome concert tonight, as well… I’m not sure), biographies of musicians who lived through the Holocaust were told. The surviving musicians included Alma Rose, conductor of the Auschwitz women’s orchestra and niece to the composer Gustav Mahler, as well as Hans Krasa and Gideon Klein, Jewish musicians who continued to compose and play until their deaths in the Nazis’ gas chambers.