WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Polish city of Czestochowa is renaming its orchestra to honor a native son: Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish-Jewish violin virtuoso who helped save hundreds of German Jews from the Holocaust and who founded the precursor to what is now the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
An inaugural concert by the Bronislaw Huberman Philharmonic on Wednesday evening comes amid a broader rediscovery of the importance that Poland's large Jewish community had on Polish culture before it was wiped out in the Holocaust.
The newly rebuilt and modernized philharmonic hall sits on the site of a former synagogue that was destroyed by German Nazis during their wartime occupation of Poland.
Czestochowa is home to Poland's most important Catholic pilgrimage site, Jasna Gora. Before World War II it was also home to 40,000 Jews, almost all of whom died.
Philharmonic Director Ireneusz Kozera described Huberman (1882-1947) as a "wonderful violinist and a humanist" who is still remembered by the city's residents. He added that they "will remember him all the more so" now that the philharmonic bears his name.
The city this week is also bestowing honorary citizenship on a Holocaust survivor from Czestochowa, Sigmund Rolat.
Rolat, who lives in the United States, told The Associated Press that he spent a happy childhood as a Jewish boy in "one of the most Catholic cities ... in what is probably the most Catholic country in the world" before the Germans arrived and killed the rest of his family.
He also said he was honored to receive an honor that Czestochowa last bestowed on the late Pope John Paul II. "I think we are witnessing a wonderful renaissance of Jewish culture in Poland," Rolat said.