MANALAPAN, Fla. (CBS12) — Bram Rodrigues, an 18-year-old Jewish boy in Holland, never made it to adulthood.
In September 1943, he and his father were killed in Auschwitz.
But more than 75 years later, his most prized possession, a violin, moved a room of well-wishers at a synagogue in Manalapan.
“To me, the violin is more than just a violin,” said David Groen, Bram’s nephew and one of his few surviving relatives. “In many ways, the violin is Bram.”
In a small ceremony, Rodrigues' violin was played for the first time since The Holocaust. The old violin filled the performance space for three songs, played by expert violinist Dr. Kenneth Sarch.
The ceremony was called "Vanished Voice Violin Recital" and held at Chabad of South Palm Beach.
“If there’s such a thing as a human soul, there’s something of Bram in this violin,” Sarch said.
The Groen family discovered Bram’s long-lost violin in July. Fleeing Amsterdam, Rodrigues left the violin with his best friend and band mate, Johnny de Haan. De Haan held onto the violin until his death seven years ago.
“I think for him, the violin held the same meaning for him as it has for me today. It was Bram,” said Groen, seated alongside his brother Leo in an exclusive interview with CBS12 News.
De Haan’s son, Wim, found David in March, after discovering Bram Rodrigues’ name in publications connected to David’s book “Jew Face.”
In a lengthy email, Wim wrote that he had possession of Groen’s uncle’s violin, that it was a prized possession of his father’s, and that he would like to return it to David and his four older siblings. The five traveled to the Netherlands and received the violin in a ceremony.
“From a man who wasn’t Jewish, for a friend of his who was, with the feeling, the understanding and the belief that not only will he never get any credit for it, he'll never even know,” Groen said in awe of what De Haan did for his uncle.
“There is no greater, beautiful thing than a violin,” aid Leo Groen, David's brother. “It represents warmth and beauty and caring and this is the way my mother described my uncle.”
Rodrigues' sister and Groen’s mother, Sipora, survived the war by hiding in the basement of a Dutch countryside home. In remarks at the violin event, Groen paid tribute to his mother and her protectors, saying without them, he and his siblings would not be here.
At the recital, following a short speech from Groen on Rodrigues’ legacy, the violin played songs by Ernest Bloch, Duke Ellington, John Williams’ “Remembrances” from Schindler’s List, and Jerry Bock’s "Sabbath Prayer" from Fiddler on the Roof.
“On a personal level, it’s almost like a holy artifact,” Groen said. "It represents the soul of our uncle.”
“Its like his ‘neshama,’ his soul is coming back to life,” Leo Groen said.