Oberlin Conservatory Presents Holocaust Remembrance Day Programs

Programs include talk by Holocaust survivor Carol Wilner, instruments from Violins of Hope, and performances by Conservatory faculty, students, and alumni

May 1, 2024

Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

backs of Holocaust era violins with inlaid Stars of David on the backs
Photo credit: Violins of Hope

Yom HaShoah, known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed annually to honor the lives and memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1945. It also commemorates the heroism of the survivors and rescuers. The observance commonly centers educational programs that include talks by Holocaust survivors, readings, and music. 

On Sunday, May 5 and  Monday, May 6, Oberlin Conservatory is joining in the observance of this important day by presenting a powerful set of programs on campus and in Lorain, Ohio. The first of these will take place in Oberlin Conservatory's Warner Concert Hall at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 5

Additional presentations of the program have also been scheduled by collaborative partner Arnie Milner, president of Agudath B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Lorain. A slightly expanded format, with additional speakers and musical selections, will be given at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 6, at the Lorain Palace Theater—a historic theater in Lorain, Ohio. During the school days on May 6 and 7, hundreds of children will also experience a shorter program with performances by Oberlin Conservatory students.

These programs all feature honored guest and Holocaust survivor Carol Wilner who will share an address that includes stories about her family’s experience. A meaningful centerpiece of the event is the exhibit of four instruments from the important Violins of Hope collection.

Violins of Hope is an internationally acclaimed, Tel Aviv-based project that has toured the world and been part of numerous concerts and educational programming. It is also an exhibition of more than 70 instruments and their powerful individual stories. This private collection of violins, violas, and cellos—all collected since the end of World War II—have been restored by Israeli father and son luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein. Many of the instruments belonged to Jews before and during the war. Many were donated by or bought from survivors; some arrived through family members and many simply carry Stars of David as a decoration.

Wilner’s granddaughter and soprano Emily Mandell, an Oberlin Conservatory alumna from the Class of 2023, will perform songs with Oberlin faculty pianist Thomas Bandy. One of the works she will sing is Dave Ragland’s I Believe, the text of which was taken from a poem written by a Jewish prisoner on a wall in a concentration camp.

There will also be performances of two works by composers whose careers were cut tragically short when they died in Nazi concentration camps. These include the second movement from Erwin Schulhoff's Sonata for Solo Violin and Gideon Klein's String Trio, performed by Oberlin Conservatory String Department faculty—violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson, violist Kirsten Docter, and cellist Dmitry Kouzov

Bernhardsson will perform on one of the violins from the collection—a violin that once belonged to Ole Dahl, a violin maker turned member of the Danish Resistance who fought Nazis and hid Danish Jews escaping the Nazis. Three additional violins from this important collection will be on display.

About the featured speaker: Holocaust survivor Carol Wilner

Carol Wilner was born in Boryslaw, Poland on March 7, 1941—the eve of the invasion by Germany. Only a few months old at the time, she survived the impossible in a unique story of unimaginable events that border on the miraculous. She lived in hiding throughout the duration of the war until Boryslaw was liberated by the Soviet army. Only three members of her extended family survived; more than 30 did not. After liberation, Carol spent three years, from 1946-49, in a displaced persons camp named Sedan-Kaserne in Ulm, Germany. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 8 and began the process of transforming herself into an American girl. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism from George Washington University and earned her master's degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. She became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and specialized in gerontology, eventually opening a private practice in Maryland. Carol has three children and six grandchildren, all of whom, like Emily, are immensely creative and talented. They are her testament to survival. Wilner’s oral history was recorded and is available at the St. Louis Holocaust Museum. 

This Holocaust Remembrance Day programming has been made possible by Arnie Milner, President of Agudath B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Lorain; Rabbi Shlomo Elkan, Chabad at Oberlin; and Oberlin Conservatory of Music. 

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