The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada is a haunting tale of dignity found amidst the horror of Auschwitz, one of the Nazi death camps. Written in Catalan and translated into English by Martha Tennent, this short book (really a novella) follows the story of Daniel, originally a violin maker by trade. However, upon arriving at the concentration camp, Daniel quickly realized that “violin makers” were of little use to the Germans and were swiftly escorted to their deaths. So, instead he stated his occupation as “carpenter” and his attention to tiny details make him an excellent carpenter indeed.
Spending his mornings in the carpenter’s shop and his afternoons doing backbreaking factory work, Daniel’s life in the camp consists of barely sustainable meals of watered down coffee, plain bread, and turnip soup. Every area of his life is managed by the SS guards and random beatings are commonplace. The terror with in which Daniel lives is only managed by living in the moment, but sometimes he escapes to thoughts of his family (if they’re alive) and his beloved, Eva.
Eventually, Daniel’s luthier skills become evident to the Commander of the camp, who is a collector of fine instruments, including violins. He orders Daniel to build him a fine violin. If the violin cannot play a wonderful tune, then Daniel will be handed over to a disgusting Dr. Rascher, who experiments on the unfortunate inmates.
While this book doesn’t have the depth of Night by Elie Wiesel, I thought The Violin of Auschwitz was well-done. It did not focus on the horrible stench of death, but rather on the life within the walls of the Three Rivers Camp. As Daniel develops, the privilege of making a violin again, even for the abhorrent Commander, gives Daniel the will to live just a little longer. In the face of impossible circumstances, Daniel does very human, not superhuman things, like hopes he will get a big potato in his potato soup (served only on Thursdays) or ferrets away a crust of break to make it through a labor intensive afternoon. Often, we are exposed to the inhumanity of the death camps, but this book tells the story of a man defying the odds and finding pleasure in the darkest of places.
Amy’s Grade: B
*Thank you to GoodReads for providing me with a review copy of this book!*