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Luthier Amnon Weinstein, in his workshop in Tel-Aviv (Israel), in 2016. MENAHEM KAHANA

Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli luthier, devotes his life to repairing instruments that belonged to deported Jews. His story is told in the beautiful documentary The violins of hope by Katia Chapoutier, not to be missed this Friday, November 25 at 10:20 p.m. on Histoire TV.

You have to plane with precision, treat the wood, test the sound, again and again. For thirty years, Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein has been cleaning, repairing and cajoling violins that history and its dramas have made particularly precious. These are instruments linked to the Holocaust, which Jewish deportees took with them or which families left behind, involuntary testimony to their former life. He will thus have saved a hundred of them, today regularly used on stage by an orchestra. Two concerts took place last week at the Salle Gaveau, in Paris, and at La Seine musicale in Boulogne-Billancourt.

The sound is superb

When the cameras go to meet Amnon Weinstein, he resuscitates a violin that an American officer had saved from the flames in a concentration camp. A young musician comes to try it in this workshop which resembles that of Geppetto. The sound is superb. The luthier does not hide his joy and advises him, proof that the instrument has regained all its health: “You gotta play as hard as you can, no mercy.”

Feeling of guilt

It is necessary to make these violins resonate, to transmit the “spirit” of those from whom they were torn. “They speak for six million peoplesays the luthier modestly. The documentary focuses as much on the trajectory of Amnon Weinstein as on the journeys of the violins who continue to come to him. A Belgian citizen, for example, inherited from her parents a violin left by a young Jew. He had given it to them to pay his rent, because he had nothing, not a penny in his pocket. This lady says and repeats, it’s a bit painful in the long run, on camera her feeling of guilt. This testimony is less interesting than the sequences where historians recount the role of music in the camps. Saving for some, it was also used by the Nazis to stifle the fears of the deportees. Sometimes even to humiliate them.

Tunes never written have disappeared

Adapted to often itinerant musicians, the violin is the klezmer instrument par excellence, named after this musical tradition born in the Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe. Because of the Holocaust, tunes never written have disappeared, explains the documentary. The current experienced a period of revival after the war. We would have liked to hear certain melodies, as well as classic pieces, but the authors made a rather inexplicable choice of soundtrack. Piano tunes without the slightest interest run throughout the film. We can console ourselves by listening to Ravel’s Kaddish by Yehudi Menuhin.

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