CLEVELAND — It’s one of the worst war crimes in history, the state-sponsored genocide of millions of Jewish people in Nazi Germany during World War II.
A new report by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany shows there are about 245,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors alive today. The mass murders left a lifelong impact on those who lived through the horrors and their loved ones.
A new documentary film follows one family’s journey to fulfill their dad’s dream to return to Auschwitz and share some joy at the scene of so much hate.
Shony Alex Braun tapped into his talents during a time of great tragedy.
“He was able to survive the camps, I believe, and I think he would tell you the same thing, because he played his violin for the SS officers and the Nazis,” said Braun’s daughter, Dinah Braun Griffin.
At 13 years old, Braun arrived at Auschwitz, the first of four concentration camps he endured. Griffin said he was forced to watch family members and others be killed.
“I don’t really know how you come away from that and not be bitter and just completely screwed up in the head,” Griffin said.
Instead, the child prodigy violinist’s mind filled with music. While in captivity, Braun composed a five-movement symphony.
His story struck a chord with documentary filmmaker Greg DeHart.
“How he was able to pick himself up and to transform this, you know, the second half of his life was a miracle to me,” DeHart said.
With nearly 90 titles to his name, DeHart set out to direct and produce a film sharing Braun’s story.
“I love this film, and I just want everyone to see it,” DeHart said.
Braun married Shari Mendelovitz, another survivor, after the war and immigrated to the United States, landing in Ohio.
“Cleveland was a really important place in his life,” DeHart said. “It was kind of a stopover, but it was. It was his first time in America.”
And it’s in Cleveland where Braun was noticed once again for his talents on the violin, eventually moving the family to Los Angeles where he went on to perform in films and TV and write more than 200 other musical pieces. But only one symphony.
“He was asked to play with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and that’s where it was world debuted,” Griffin said.
It was Braun’s dream to play his 17-minute composition at Auschwitz, where suffering sparked the symphony. He died in 2002 before making the trip.
“I really never thought I would ever go there, but for this I made that exception,” Griffin said. “And I’m really so happy that I did.”
Griffin and her family fulfilled her father’s dream by bringing his music to the concentration camps gates.
Notes that are packed with more than just the sounds.
“It’s always painful and joyful and knowing each movement and the meanings behind them and hearing them,” Griffin said. “It’s emotional. It’s always emotional.”
The journey was documented by DeHart, hoping to share a message of forgiveness and healing.
“As my dad would say, ‘Everybody bleeds the same,’” Griffin said. “So we are all alike.”
The documentary “Symphony of the Holocaust” is now available to watch on Sunn Stream, a new streaming service. The world premiere is Saturday, January 27 in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.