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11th Annual Palm Springs Jewish Film Festival screens ‘Symphony of the Holocaust’

The 11th annual Jewish Film Festival is taking place in Palm Springs this week. 

We were there for Monday night's screening of the 'Symphony of the Holocaust,' which tells the story of a Holocaust survivor who shared his experience through music.

"Because he was a musician, the way that he survived was to do melodies in his head," said the film's director, Greg DeHart. "He was in Auschwitz, hearing melodies, that was the way to keep him sane." 

The 'Symphony of the Holocaust’ captures the life of prodigy violinist, Shony Alex Braun, who was taken to Auschwitz as a teen. 

The Film's Executive Producer, Garrett Sutton wants Braun's story to be shared with everyone, "Whether you're Jewish or not. It's really important right now, for people to understand what's going on in society and how people are still carrying hatred. And this story needs to get out there so that people can understand that Shony Braun was willing to forgive people. That's one of the themes of this movie, is forgiveness, and that's so important right now."

As a survivor, it was his lifelong dream to perform the symphony he started composing while in camp at the gates of Auschwitz. 

"The symphony played at Auschwitz on his violin. I mean, it can't get more special than that," said Braun's granddaughter, Sierra Rechnitz.

Although Braun was not able to make it to the gates of Auschwitz within his lifetime, his family was able to track down the violinist who owned Braun’s violin, Armenian violinist and refugee, Erik Ghukasyan.

Braun's family invited Ghukasyan to play the piece at the gates of Auschwitz.

"I was hesitant because, I didn't want to go, but I knew I wanted to do something to honor my parents and fulfill their dreams," said Braun's daughter, Dinah Braun Griffin.

Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony worked with Braun and was there during the symphony’s earliest stages. On Monday night she was there as the symphony was performed with a chamber group for the first time. 

She says the symphony is composed of five moments, that start with the saga of the Holocaust.

"The next movement is called 'Prayer.' And it's a prayer to God to please get us out of here, please save us from what's happening here," said Dr. Green.

The piece also captures the feeling of liberation Braun felt when he survived the camp. 

"Then the next movement is, I think, the most poignant one. It's called 'Song of Commemoration.' It talks about the survivors realizing that they survived, but most of their family, most of their friends did not survive," added Dr. Green.

The symphony ends with a moment capturing the 'Joy of Life.'

"The birds that he imitated, and chirping, and being able to symbolize that there's the freedom to fly over the fence and gates of the holocaust," said Braun Griffin.

The crowd was moved to their feet giving the chamber a standing ovation.

"It's not just another Holocaust film. My husband is not Jewish, the gentleman I chose to play my dad's symphony, Erik, an amazing, violinist, he's Armenian, and his whole family was persecuted. My dad's very close friend, who is his violin repairman, his violin maker is German," said Braun Griffin.

The 'Symphony of the Holocaust' can be streamed on, Apple TV, IOS, Google Play, Roku and Amazon.

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Bianca Ventura

Bianca Ventura joined KESQ News Channel 3 as a reporter in February 2022.


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