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Maria Angels Anglada

The Auschwitz Violin

Synopsis: In 1991, at a concert in Krakow, a female violinist is approached by a admirer of her violin. She tells him the story of how it was made, by a man named Daniel who was a prisoner at Auschwitz.

It’s a thin book, but given the subject matter delivers a great deal of power. The sections within the concentration camp, in particular, are described with a deft hand, revealing some details about the cruelty that the Nazis subjected their victims to, that I had been previously unaware of. I knew of the death camps, Kristalnacht, the yellow stars, and the gas chambers that millions lost their lives in, but didn’t know very much about the day to day suffering of those within the death camps.

I took the book out, on Holocaust remembrance day, yesterday, and was impressed by the amount of research that Anglada had evidently done, in both the inner workings of the Nazi camps, and how violins are put together.

Daniel suffers the indignity of having to pose in borrowed warm clothing, in a series of photographs for Nazi propaganda, ‘the prisoners staved off the blows by means of the bitter simulacrum of a smile, the girl photographed them from various angles’. He calms himself, by focusing on the task of creating the violin, something that he is so used to from the time before the Nazi regime really took hold. The remembrances of his mother, and her cooking are truly touching, as are the mentions of the brave inmates such as the former professor who will slip bread to his fellow prisoners, risking death or a whipping for the simple action.

I was relieved to see that at least some of the prisoners, escaped with the aid of Count Bernadotte, another remarkable man who saved hundreds of Nazi prisoners from the concentration camps. I had never heard of him, but was inspired by this book to research into the man. I was stunned to see that he had been assassinated by Jewish terrorists, a mere three years after the war ended, after saving 31,000 prisoners.

This book is a elegant blending of real people and fictional characters, during a horrific period of human history, which everyone could benefit from reading, regardless of their personal political beliefs.

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