Remembrance Part 2: David Arben

I usually write just one original post a day, but my post earlier about International Holocaust Remembrance Day led me to a discovery that needs to be shared.

The music with which I ended that post featured restored violins that had been owned by Jewish holocaust victims. That got me thinking about how many Jewish lives were saved by violins. The Nazis kept violinists alive to entertain at their sumptuous dinners and to play music as Jews were led to the gas chambers.

David Arben
David Arben shortly after the war

I remembered a violinist I knew when I was a teenager and he was in his late 30s and early 40s. I hung out a lot in those days at the home of my friend Susan Lunenfeld, who died several years ago. Her parents were close with David Arben, who also spent much of his free time at their home. Arben’s life had been saved by his violin. As a child, he certainly would have been killed by the Nazis if they had not discovered his musical ability.

A violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, he seemed to devote his life to the instrument that had saved it. He never went anywhere without his violin.

After my earlier post brought him back to mind, I decided to search the internet to learn what had become of him. I found him. He had become associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra before he retired in 1993. Six years later, at the age of 69, he returned to his hometown of Warsaw for the first time since the war, the only member of his family to have survived the holocaust. He played in a synagogue there in their memory.

My internet search led also to an article from 2009, when Arben must have been close to 80. His life had been featured in Andres Faucher’s documentary The Legacy and Arben was to play it its premiere.

I’m pleased that Arben’s violin not only kept him alive but led to a fulfilling and appreciated career. I hope he is alive, well and happy, and I know what film I’ll be looking for on Netflix tonight. In the meantime, below is the one sample I could find of his playing, from a CBS radio show of the 1960s.

Bravo, my old friend.

— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)

Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine

4 Comments Add yours

  1. amiezor says:

    Mel – your two posts in honor of Rememberance Day were so heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. David’s story above is a poignant one that I won’t likely forget.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. melhpine says:

      David wanted to play the violin from the time he was a toddler. Then he lost his family when he was around 10, an age at which the Nazis spared no one — except in his case for that violin.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. David Arbeit says:

    Thank you for posting this “remembrance” of David. You will be happy to know that he is indeed “alive, well, and happy” in Philadelphia. He will be 89 in August. His story is amazing and warrants repeating.

    I may be his only living relative in the US – he told me that his father was my grandfather’s brother when I spent some time with him several years ago after not seeing him since I was a boy in the 1950s. But he has an extended family of former students who remain devoted to him and his story.

    Rebecca Jackson, a talented violinist from Santa Cruz, along with her ensemble Sound Impact, has commissioned and frequently features an astounding piece “Haim” that tells David’s story. See thesoundimpact.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/david-arben-mentor-of-mentors/. I hope you get to see it one of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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