Clinton man crafts tribute to Holocaust victims

By  | 

CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Behind the door of Ernie Gross Designs in Clinton, you'll find the craftsmanship that led to many high-profile projects, including the locker rooms for Tennessee football and work inside the Tennessee Theater.

"I announced to my wife that I was retiring last year, but it didn't take too well yet," Ernie Gross said. He just wasn't ready to settle into retirement without carving out one last, very personal project.

Dozens of violins that survived the Holocaust have been saved and restored. They're sitting on display inside a downtown Knoxville exhibit as part of 'Violins of Hope'.

Ernie crafted each wooden display that the storied instruments now sit on. But the designs have more meaning than probably any other project he's worked on.

"My mother was in Auschwitz and my father was in labor camp." Ernie said for many prisoners, "Violins were some of the last things they heard before they went into the gas chambers."

Ernie's parents heard those sounds, but never faced the gas chambers. "But as damaged as they were, they managed to survive and create a family."

A family where music still plays a major role, especially the violin. "One of the instruments that speaks directly to your heart -- at least to me," Ernie said.

And, in a way, his parents have something in common with each Violin of Hope.

"They survived. And they survived just as beautifully as those violins have."

The violins are on display through the 27th at the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery. They'll also be played by members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra on January 23 and 24.