Music has always been a part of life in Jewish communities throughout the world, at family events such as weddings and special events in the synagogue. The violin was favored by Jews even before the two world wars and was part of the culture of every Jewish town in Eastern Europe. The violin was nearly always the lead instrument in the Klezmer bands that appeared at events.
Klezmers and violins were also immortalized in works of literature and art (Shalom Aleichem and Chagall), mainly in the early 20th century. Musical activity was widespread in the ghettos – in Lodz, Krakow, Warsaw, Vilna, Terezin and even in the work camps and extermination camps created by the Nazis.
As Stampnews.com found out, songs were also performed in the ghettos and camps by the residents themselves. One of the collections containing a number of these songs, "Songs from the Ghettos and the Camps" was published in 1946. The song "Never Say – the Partisans' Song" has become an anthem commemorating the Holocaust and is sung at Holocaust memorial ceremonies. It has been translated into several languages. The words of the song were written by partisans in the Vilna ghetto and set to a pre-war Russian melody.
During World War II the Nazis confiscated many violins from their Jewish owners. Some of these violins were found after the Holocauust, mostly broken and ruined, and they were probably simple instruments to begin with. Some of the Jews' violins had Star of David symbols, usually on the back, engraved in the wood or sometimes as a mosaic made of wood or mother of pearl.
One of the violins that survived the Holocaust is called "Moteleh's Violin", owned by a 12-year old Jewish boy named Mordechai Schlein. Nazi officers who heard Moteleh playing in the street in 1944 ordered him to play for them at their club. Moteleh took advantage of his performances to smuggle explosives into the club in his violin case, later blowing up the building and those inside. He was eventually killed in a German ambush and his violin was taken to Israel by the family.