Can you hear the sound of the violins this Holocaust Remembrance Day?  It is another kind of miracle that these once loved violins are traveling to the capable hands of musicians who love them and play them for audiences .

Hitler liked the idea of live musicians to greet the new arrivals at concentration camps like Auschwitz.  The newly arrived prisoners were briefly heartened and comforted by the beauty of the music.  The melodies mixed strangely with the black ashes coming from the smokestacks.  The musicians who played were sometimes able to live a bit longer than those who had no musical talent.

The Jewish culture had a long history of loving violin music.  Violins could happily accompany weddings, cry at funerals, and run the gamut of just about any emotion.  Practically speaking given the unrelenting history of Jews and persecution, violins were small enough to run away with.

Most of the musicians themselves died in the Holocaust, but amazingly some of the violins themselves that had survived found their way to an Israeli violin maker and his son.  They lovingly and painstakingly nursed the battered and tattered pieces of these violins until they literally came back to life.  Because no two violins feel exactly alike, the sensitivity of talented violinists who have touched these precious violins can feel a kinship to the owners who once loved and nurtured them, and then died so terribly.

Although Hitler tried his best, the Jewish culture has survived.  Israel has become a stunning example of a vibrant Jewish country.  And the Jewish violins that survived the ravages of war and hate are playing again.  Their music is sweet.

The death of a friendship is quite different from the death of a friend.  The death of a friend is permanent, and not in your control.  The death of a friendship is also permanent, but voluntary.  Both require a certain time for mourning.

Why did we lose what had bonded us?  If this instead of that, could it have been prevented?  Was I the one who changed?  Or, was she the one who changed?  Why hadn’t I seen a hint that she was carrying grudges for the 20 years since we had last seen each other?  What could we have done?  What should we have done?  Was there anything that could have saved our friendship?

And now that we are no longer friends, will never see one another again, will never talk with one another again, what to do with the memories?  Enshrine them?  Discard them?  Try to forget them? Gnaw on them to figure out what happened and who was to blame? Keep the good things and throw the rest away?  Put them in a “once upon a time” space?

I had hoped to gain a greater, wiser perspective in the weeks that have followed our much awaited one-week visit. But I understand it all no better than I did before.  I have accepted the sad ending without figuring out the whys.


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