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The Violin

On Nov. 9, 1938, a teenager, 15 years old, experienced the most violent, barbaric display of anti-Semitic acts ever recorded in history. I was that teenager!

The day began by witnessing the purposeful destruction of the only Jewish vocational school in the area, while people cheered and applauded. It was my school.

Then, as I hurried home on my bike, I arrived to see a mob of Nazis in brown and black uniforms throwing our furniture and other belongings through windows which had been smashed and off the balcony. In the yard below, a huge bonfire consumed everything dear to us, while the Nazi hordes and mob of onlookers sang and shouted insults at us, the Jews.

While our apartment was being destroyed and ransacked, mother was locked up in one room, crying loudly. My father was being beaten up in the hallway, pleading for mercy. When I too asked them to stop, they took me into my room, threw my violin at me, took me to the balcony, and ordered me to play happy German songs.

I was scared, crying, in agony, but play I did to the amusement of the crowd. My father was taken to Dachau concentration camp. Our two beautiful synagogues were destroyed.

Before I fled Germany, and eventual freedom in America, I hid the violin in the attic of our apartment. When I returned from military service in the U.S. Army and the war was won over Hitler, I wrote to the janitor of our apartment at Mannheim, Germany. He found the hidden violin and sent it to me in America!

This is the violin which shares all the memories of the past with me. At one time it could vibrate to imitate the happy flight of song birds. Today it is only a reminder of a once dehumanized and terrified German boy.

Robert Kahn
Sept. 15, 1997

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