violins of hope

Violins of Hope brings Pittsburgh a rare opportunity to experience history

Photos via KDKA courtesy of Violins of Hope Pittsburgh.

A rare and significant collection of string instruments from the Holocaust can be seen in Pittsburgh now through Nov. 21 at an exhibit called “Violins of Hope.” The hope is that hundreds of young people will see it and learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and the hope these instruments represent.

The musical instruments bring to life the stories of those who played them during the Holocaust, honoring the six million Jews killed.

This touring exhibit of the violins, violas and cellos and their stories will be at Carnegie Mellon University’s Posner Center for seven weeks, and it’s free to visit. The organizers have reserved the morning hours for school groups to visit the exhibit, with dozens scheduled to see it. In fact, they have put a special emphasis on comprehensive in-school programming for middle school and high school students. There are subsidies for transportation and admission for schools that need it.

“By delving into the historical themes of bigotry, racism and intolerance during the Holocaust and telling stories of perseverance through these times, students will uncover the power of the human spirit to overcome even the most daunting circumstances,” the Violins of Hope website explains.

In addition, there are more than 60 community events happening through November that are related to the exhibit.

violins of hope
Students at Duquesne University were moved by the experience of rehearsing with these instruments played during the Holocaust under unimaginably difficult circumstances.

One of those was at Duquesne University on Sunday, Oct. 8. Before the performance, students rehearsed using some of the instruments. The student musicians said it was emotional to hold a piece of history and to understand how music can inspire and heal.

One young woman got choked up when she said, “It’s crazy that people could even think of making joyful music in such a dark situation. So to hold something that came out of that and might have given someone a little more hope to survive, it’s just really fantastic.”

The tragedy at the “Tree of Life” synagogue in Squirrel Hill five years ago was the impetus for bringing the touring exhibit to Pittsburgh.

“We want people to learn. That’s what we’re really here for is to learn — learn from history, learn about the stories the violins tell and remember that hope is for all of us,” said Pat Siger, co-chair of Violins of Hope Pittsburgh, who helped bring the exhibit here. “A kinder, more tolerant community is what we’re working for.”

In addition, the symphony, ballet, opera, choirs and other arts organizations are performing works using the actual string instruments or inspired by the instruments. There are also lectures and discussions. For details and to reserve a timed ticket, visit

violins of hope