Violin Update

I recall having blogged about the recent confiscations of valuable violins by the German customs authorities at Frankfurt airport.

Now there have been some new developments.

For one, Finance Minister Schäuble has ordered that these violins are returned to their rightful owners, as is reported at Bild (in German). Thanks to this tweet by yumi for the link.

The Japanese government has complained strongly about this outrage, as well it should. Again, there is nothing wrong with asking for proper documentation. But if you start doing this, you need to inform people likely affected by your new policy. You can’t just start confiscating violins worth millions just because some formality is missing.

If this kind of thing would be allowed to persist, Germany would very soon be finished as a destination for any famous musicians in the field of classic music. That would be extremely unfortunate in relation to Japan. Japanese musicians traditionally have excellent relations to Germany. Damaging these over this kind of failed new policy rollout needs to be avoided.

The article also mentions that civil servants at the Frankfurt customs office have filed a criminal complaint against their own Minister. They say there is no reason not to insist on payment of 1.5 million euros of duties, and Schäuble’s political influence is a criminal offence.

I disagree with that. Schäuble’s actions were necessary because these officials failed at their job in the first place. It would have been their job to make sure these kind of misunderstandings are avoided. They needed to explain exactly what kind of documentation they want. I am sure Japanese musicians will be more than ready to listen to this kind of explanation, and follow the new rules in the future.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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