Boy with a Violin
A Story of Survival
Published by: Indiana University Press
On June 22, 1941, the German invasion of the Soviet Union began. In a matter of days, the war reached the suburbs of Kaunas, Lithuania, where a young Jewish violinist, Yochanan Fein, led a happy childhood. On June 22, 1941, that childhood ended.
In Boy with a Violin, Fein recounts his early life under Nazi occupation—his survival in the Kaunas Ghetto, the separation from his parents, his narrow escapes from death at the hands of Nazi officers, the harrowing stories of those he knew who did not survive, and the abhorrent conditions he endured while in hiding. He tells the tale of his rescuer, Jonas Paulavičius, the Lithuanian carpenter who sought to save the Jewish spirit. Paulavičius rescued those he believed could rebuild in the wake of the Holocaust, hiding engineers and doctors in his underground Noah's Ark. Among the sixteen he saved stood one fourteen-year-old violinist.
Following liberation, Fein describes the aftermath of the war as survivors returned to what was left of their homes and attempted to piece together the fragmented remains of their lives. He recounts the difficulties of returning to some semblance of normal life in the midst of a complex political climate, culminating in his daring escape from Soviet Lithuania.
In one of the darkest eras of human history, there were those who proved that the goodness of the human spirit survives against all odds. Boy with a Violin pays tribute to those who risked everything to save a life, and whose altruism crossed the boundaries of race and religion. In this first English translation of Boy with a Violin, Fein continues to offer his testimony to the strength of the human spirit.
1. Who Was This Man?
2. A Jewish Boy and His Parents
3. The Goal—Saving the Intellectuals
4. The Violin of My Life
5. The Story—Back to the Beginning
6. The Great Action and the Looting of Those Who Remained
7. The Separation from My Parents
8. At My Relatives' House
9. General Winte
11. The "Malina"
12. The Girl, Ghetta'leh
13. The Murder of Children
14. My Escape from the Ghetto
15. In the Attic and the "Tomato Patch"
16. In the Depths of the Pit
17. Farewell from a Distance
18. The Russian Captive and Rubin, the Jew
19. About Anna, Oscar and Otto
20. The Sixteen Survivors
21. About Hideouts and People
22. The Paulavičius'
23. There Is No Law and There Is No Judge
25. The Return Home
26. The Joy of Youth
28. A Brief Return Home
29. Goodbye Lithuania
30. Strangers in Poland
31. At the Children's Home
32. My Students—My Friends
33. The Court
35. Goodbye Poland
36. Me and My Past
"Such stories have been told before: A Jewish boy a violin, the pounding of boots, death and grief. Yet this book overwhelmed me. I was swept away, so much so that as I read this book on the train, I was so immersed that I missed my destination."~Het Parool Newspaper
"The heroes of Fein's story are individualists who fought for their lives under impossible circumstances and overcame, illuminating the darkness of those days. The story is not told through the eyes of the young man in the story, but through the context of his accumulated life experience."~Matityahu Mintz, Tel Aviv University
"As I began to read the manuscript of Boy with a Violin, I could not put it down. Against the hellscape surrounding him the book has a breath of optimism, a belief in the future of mankind as a unique creature: capable of committing atrocities, but also of creating wonders. This book must be published: to show the reasons why man can rise from the ashes, and continue to live."~Menachem Brinker, Literary scholar and philosopher, Israel Prize laureate, and peace activist
"Boy with a Violin captivated me with the intimate, humanistic writing that was evident on every page, in every line. A true writer, his writing is direct and succinct, and skillfully conveys his deep understanding of that era of our history, and of the nature of humankind. As Yochanan describes the indescribable—the tale of his miraculous survival—the story progresses from a testimony that is both chilling and deeply moving, to a fine work of literature that will touch the heart of any reader."~Haim Be'er, Israeli novelist
Hear Jochanan Fein talking about experiences in the Kaunas Ghetto