Posts that contain books by author ‘ Motele Schlein ’

Motele Schlein

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Watch me tell the amazing story of Motele Schlein, a 12-year-old partisan who blew up a Nazi Soldiers Club using explosives he had hidden inside his violin case.

Motele Schlein’s Violin

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Watch me read excerpts from the sixth chapter of Violins of Hope. Chapter 6 discusses the amazing story of Motele Schlein, a 12-year-old Jewish partisan who blew up a Nazi Soldiers Club using explosives he had hidden inside his violin case.

Motele Schlein’s Violin

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Last week, I posted a video about the amazing story of Motele Schlein, a 12-year-old Jewish partisan who was hired to play the violin at a Nazi Soldiers Club. This week, you can watch me talk about how Motele’s Violin found its way to Amnon Weinstein’s workshop in Israel.

Motele Schlein


Watch me talk about Motele Schlein, a 12-year-old Jewish partisan who was hired to play the violin at a Nazi Soldiers Club.


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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

The Partisan Song

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UncleMishaAs I mentioned in a recent blog post, I will be serving as the featured speaker in a Holocaust Memorial program for the Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, MS, on Saturday, April 26.

The presentation will combine a discussion of the Violins of Hope with performances by Marta Szlubowska, who is the concertmaster of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Maestra Szlubowska will be performing classical works as well as a few Yiddish songs that were popular in Jewish communities during the Holocaust.

One of the Yiddish songs Maestra Szlubowska will play is Zog Nit Keynmol (Never Say), which is widely recognized as “The Partisan Song.” The melody of Zog Nit Keynmol is derived from a pre-war Soviet march, but its lyrics were composed in 1943 by Hirsh Glick, who had been confined to the Vilna Ghetto. Glick penned the text as a reaction to the news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when a group of Jewish fighters rebelled against their Nazi captors. Although the Jewish combatants were ultimately too poorly armed to defeat the German forces, their heroic efforts inspired Glick to incite others to continue fighting:

Never say that you have reached the end of the road,
Though leaden skies may blot out the light of day.
The hour that we all long for will indeed come,
When our steps will beat out the message: “We are here!”

Zog Nit Keynmol became something of an anthem for spiritual resistance in ghettos and concentration camps, as well as for Jewish partisans. This may have included Uncle Misha’s Jewish Group, a legendary guerrilla force of Jewish combatants who fought in the dense forests of Poland and Ukraine. From their hideouts in the woods, they launched paramilitary attacks and performed acts of sabotage on the Nazis and their collaborators.

One member of Uncle Misha’s Jewish Group was the thirteen-year-old partisan Mordechai “Motele” Schlein, who had escaped into the woods after his parents and sister were executed by Nazis. In August 1943, Motele infiltrated a German Soldiers Club, where he was hired to provide entertainment during meals. Every night, Motele would hide his violin in the Soldiers Club and take home an empty violin case. He would return the next morning with a few pounds of explosives hidden in that case. When high-ranking SS officers arrived for a visit, Motele blew up the building. Motele’s amazing story is the subject of a chapter in Violins of Hope.

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!