Nazi-era viola redeemed through friend's love and music
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 10:21 a.m.
Q: A number of years ago, a retiring man brought a viola to me. He told me that he was a soldier at the capture of Berlin at the end of World War II, and was present when the various top Nazis' bunkers were opened. In Hermann Göring's bunker, the Allied troops looted fine foods, liquor, cigars and more, while this soldier grabbed a small viola made circa 1933, by the Ernst Heinrich Roth Company, complete with Nazi eagle and swastika impressed at the button.
This viola, in pristine condition, bothered me immensely. Anna, my wife, commented that, due to my qualms, I could only sell it to a Jewish customer. This sounded quite counter-intuitive, but I had to consider it, since I certainly was totally averse to selling it to a collector of Nazi memorabilia, where it would for sure have fetched a lot of money, or any such enthusiast. So, with trembling heart, I showed it to a young Jewish friend and he eventually bought it!
The philosophy was beautiful: An inanimate artistic object cannot be evil. Evil was done to it. The viola itself was a victim. It could be redeemed through our friend's love and music making. I felt not only relieved, but also greatly uplifted and encouraged.
— J.V.R., Gainesville
A: I appreciate the words of wisdom and the positive outcome of the story. It is too bad such a historically positive symbol — the swastika — was mixed up with such a negative force. Thanks for the story.
Q: Does this little toy Santa Claus have any value? I remember this toy at Christmas time as a little kid, so guesstimate circa late-1920s or early 1930s. I am not sure whether the origin is Japan or Germany.
The body is 6 inches high and, with the Merry Christmas sign raised, it is altogether 7¼ inches high. Wind it up and his left arm still raises the sign up and down while the right arm swings the handbell and his head keeps turning left and right. The only blemish is a spot on the belt buckle and coat front that could be rust. What do you think it might be worth and who would be a potential buyer?
R.P., Holly Hill
A: In the category of holiday mechanical toy memorabilia, your Santa is low on the collectors want list. Potential dollar value is less than $100. Since you are thinking of selling, contact www.justkidsnostalgia.com and see if they are interested. Perhaps you might pass it on to a family member as a good "Remember When." Let us know how things work out.
John Sikorski is an Ocala antiques dealer. He hosts a call-in radio show, "Sikorski's Attic,'' on WUFT-FM (89.1 FM). It can be heard each Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. Send your questions to Sikorski's Attic, c/o The Gainesville Sun, 2700 SW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32608-2015; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.