Posts that contain books by author ‘ Ernst Glaser ’

Ernst Glaser

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Watch me speak about Ernst Glaser, the Jewish concertmaster of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra who used his musical influence to escape a Nazi riot during a concert in Bergen in 1941.

Kirkenes March

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Watch me introduce a performance of the Kirkenes March, composed by an exiled Jewish musician to celebrate the first Norwegian town to be liberated from Nazi tyranny. At the premiere of the Kirkenes March, the violin was played by Ernst Glaser, who is the subject of Chapter 4 of Violins of Hope.

Ole Bull’s Violin

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Watch me read excerpts from the fourth chapter of Violins of Hope. Chapter 4 discusses Ernst Glaser, the Jewish concertmaster of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra who used his musical influence to escape a Nazi riot during a concert in Bergen in 1941.


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An article I wrote for the Israeli music magazine Opus has received over 1,000 likes on Facebook!


The essay is an expanded version of the end of the prologue to “Violins of Hope.” You can read that prologue at

Plundered Violins

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Goebbels-SuwaIn my last blog entry, I wrote about Nazi-looted violins that may never be returned. The most famous stolen violin may be the Stradivarius that Joseph Goebbels gave to 23-year-old Japanese prodigy Nejiko Suwa in 1943.

Suwa, who died in 2012, played the Stradivarius for many years. She repeatedly insisted that the violin had been legally purchased by the Reich Ministry of Propaganda, and was not among the thousands of instruments that the Nazis stole from Jews during the Holocaust. But is this true?

The answer is unclear, according to Carla Shapreau, a violinmaker and lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, cultural property, and art law litigation. Shapreau co-authored Violin Fraud: Deception, Forgery, Theft, and Lawsuits in England and America for Oxford University Press and wrote an article on this violin for the New York Times. In an article on “The Stolen Instruments of the Third Reich” that Shapreau published in The Strad , she lists several priceless violins that went missing during World War II, including the 1719 “Lauterbach” Stradivarius that was stolen from the Warsaw National Museum and a 1709 Stradivarius that belonged to a descendant of the Mendelssohn family.

Shapreau has been trying to establish the provenance of the violin Goebbels gave to Suwa for several years, but Suwa and now her family have refused to comment. This raises serious questions about the instrument. Is it even a Stradivarius? If so, when was it made and how was it acquired? Two days after Suwa received the violin, a Japanese newspaper reported that the instrument dates from 1722. Could this be the 1722 Stradivarius that has been missing ever since it was confiscated from Jewish art collector Oskar Bondy in 1939?

In Violins of Hope, I discuss a number of violins whose provenances can be established. But the majority of the violins in Amnon Weinstein’s collection survive without any information about the musicians who once played them. While their owners are unknown, the craftsmanship of their construction and the ornate Stars of David they bear indicate that they were once owned by Jewish musicians. Amnon has deduced that they were played in ghettos and concentration camps based on distinctive damage to the tops of the violins that comes only from being played outside in the wind, rain, and snow—something no musician would have ever done unless he was forced to do so under extraordinary conditions.

Amnon considers the unidentified violins to be the most precious instruments in his collection. They are not expensive instruments like the Ole Bull Guarneri that Ernst Glaser brought to Bergen or the Amati that Feivel Wininger played in Transnistria. They are simple, unsophisticated violins that represent the everyday Jewish lives and the everyday Jewish traditions that were destroyed during the Holocaust. They are artifacts of the Jewish culture that the Nazis tried unsuccessfully to wipe off the planet. To Amnon, the historical and sentimental value of these instruments far surpasses any monetary worth.

Teaching the Holocaust

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???????????While teaching the course about music during the Holocaust, I developed a new approach to the subject that uses memoirs and biographies to study the daily lives of Jewish musicians during the that horrific period.

As I explained during a presentation about teaching the Holocaust at the national meeting of the American String Teachers Association on March 6, 2014, I taught the course at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in Spring 2012. The goal of the class was to prepare my students to serve as docents when we brought eighteen of the Violins of Hope to Charlotte for an exhibition and a series of performances.

In discussing the Holocaust with my students, I found that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the overwhelming enormity of the estimated eleven million deaths. I noticed that they responded much more emotionally to stories about individual musicians. This, of course, is why readers have gravitated toward the memoirs of individuals such as Anne Frank, Primo Levi, and Elie Wiesel, whose personal accounts can help humanize the otherwise unfathomable tragedy of the Holocaust. I discovered that focusing on various musicians who were impacted by the catastrophe was equally helpful in encouraging my students transcend dispassionate facts and figures and instead concentrate on individual lives. My presentation at ASTA surveyed a number of English-language memoirs and biographies that I found to be particularly helpful in examining the daily lives of Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. You can find a list of those sources here.

I took a similar approach while writing Violins of Hope. The chapter on the Wagner Violin tells the story of the founding of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, but within the larger context the hardships faced by all German Jews during the early days of the Third Reich. The chapter on Erich Weininger is really about the tribulations faced by all Jews who tried to emigrate. And the chapter on the Auschwitz Violin gives an insight into the sufferings of those who were left behind. Similarly, the chapters on Ernst Glaser, Feivel Wininger, and Motele Schlein shed light on the fates of Jews in Norway, Romania, and Ukraine.

My presentation was very well received, and I was pleased that the audience members had some really good questions about my research, as well as some great feedback regarding musicians from the Holocaust who had touched their own lives. One college student approached me at the end and expressed an interest in learning more about Holocaust music. She asked if there was still room in the literature for new research.

My answer? A resounding yes!