The son of the violinist and humanist Yehudi Menuhin has been ousted as head of the German branch of his father’s foundation because of his extreme right-wing views.
Gerard Menuhin, 57, caused uproar by suggesting that Germany was being blackmailed by an international Jewish conspiracy preying on the country’s war guilt. He was forced to resign as chairman of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation (YMF) in Germany, which was established to encourage the musical talent of young immigrants.
“It was a logical and comprehensible decision in this re-educated land,” Mr Menuhin, an Old Etonion who lives in Switzerland and Britain, said. “But I’m not going to change my opinions because of it.”
Mr Menuhin is one of two sons of the violinist with his second wife, the British dancer Diana Rosamond Gould, and he has taken over a number of family responsibilities. Apart from his chairmanship of the YMF in Dusseldorf, he sits on the board of the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad.
Until now his political views have barely registered with the outside world even though he has a regular column in the Munich-based ultra-nationalist National Zeitung. One of his more vitriolic columns condemned Jewish “souvenir hunters” who gather evidence in Germany to help them to lodge financial claims for wartime persecution.
“Apart from a few curious comments about America, we weren’t really aware of his politics,” Winfried Kneip, YMF’s chief executive, said.
Mr Menuhin outed himself as a clear sympathiser with the neo-Nazi cause in two published interviews this month. In Deutsche Stimme, voice of the National Party of Germany, he used classical anti-Semitic language while still staying within the boundaries of German law.
“An international lobby of influential people and organisations is trying to keep the Germans under pressure,” he said. “Some nations — mainly America, but other Europeans, too — are profiting from an obedient Germany.”
It was unfair, he said, that Germany should continue to be punished for its Nazi past. “The main tool of this endless blackmail was supplied by the Germans themselves, although the tainted period of 12 years really was only 12 years in over 2,000 years of immaculate development.”
The Menuhin family is descended from Russian Jews, and Baron Menuhin of Stoke d’Abernon, who became a life peer in 1993, was regarded as a great humanist who worked to bring communities together. Hence the shock that his son should let himself be fêted by German parties that stir up sentiment against foreigners and often glorify the Nazis.
In an interview with the National Zeitung, organ of the German Peoples’ Union, Mr Menuhin called on Germans to stop paying taxes and thus protest at the outflow of German funds to the European Union.
“People cannot be eternally exploited in this way,” he said, “as long as there is a budget deficit, no German public money should flow abroad.”
Mr Menuhin, who describes himself as a film producer and writer, is something of a maverick within the family. “He was the least musically gifted,” a family friend said, “and he suffered from that emotionally.”
There has, in fact, been a history of family sympathy for German nationalists. Mr Menuhin’s grandfather, Moshe, was a determined anti-Zionist and expounded his views in the National Zeitung; he was arts editor from 1968 to 1970 although he was aware of its extreme German nationalism. He left the job only because the paper was not anti-Zionist enough.
Lord Menuhin earned applause from German Nationalists when he played with the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who had been a Nazi supporter. But Lord Menuhin’s point was to demonstrate that music can heal wounds. German nationalists, however, regarded the gesture as being something more, a sign of understanding for those who believed in national socialism.
That, and the dedication of some concerts to the plight of German refugees from the East, gave the Menuhin family some standing among German rightwingers. Although Lord Menuhin had humanitarian motives, Gerard appears to have interpreted his father’s gestures as a family blessing for his nationalist opinions.
The Yehudi Menuhin Foundation in Germany was set up by the violinist shortly before his death in Berlin in 1999. Its brief is “to use art to teach peaceful coexistence to children in social crisis areas with high immigrant populations”.
On a Jewish conspiracy:
“An international lobby of influential people and organisations is trying to keep the Germans under pressure . . .”
“Some nations — mainly America, but Europeans too — are profiting from an obedient Germany . . . Those claiming to speak in the name of (Holocaust) victims have better networks than those representing other groups of survivors. Just think of the survivors of murdered Cambodians, American Indians or the Armenians. I am not the only Jew who thinks in this way . . .”
On the need for a greater role for the far Right:
“The radical parties have to speak a clear language, offer alternatives, especially now that the parties of the centre are virtually indistinguishable and lack courage or solutions . . .”
On the EU:
“The European Union has swollen to gigantic proportions — a monster that is swallowing vast sums, most of which are paid for by Germany”