Ballet girl says race case left her feeling ‘violated’

Genevieve Huss: gave evidence for four hours

Genevieve Huss: gave evidence for four hours

The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor said she was left “haunted” after her ballet teacher made an antisemitic remark during a class.

Genevieve Huss was studying at a prestigious Scottish ballet school when Jonathan Barton told her and fellow dancers: “You look like a bunch of Jews lining up waiting to be shot in the rain.”

Speaking this week for the first time about her experience, Ms Huss said she had been left depressed and traumatised by the three-year criminal investigation into the teacher’s comment.

Mr Barton was charged with racial harassment, but his trial collapsed last week after the court decided he had no case to answer, despite finding that the comment had been “deplorable and ill-considered”.

That decision came after Ms Huss had spent four-and-a-half hours giving evidence. She said the process was “absolutely horrendous”.

A former student at Immanuel College, Bushey, Ms Huss moved to the Ballet West school in Argyllshire at the age of 17.

The incident with Mr Barton, in December 2010, came as a complete shock.

She said: “We were just in class. It was late at night. He came out with the comment for no reason. I thought ‘why would you say something like that?’.

“There was a really awkward atmosphere. It was like a bad joke. It was so nasty. I contacted my parents. I didn’t know what to think.”

The pain caused by Mr Barton’s comment was intensified for Ms Huss because her grandmother, 101-year-old Natalie Huss-Smickler, had been saved from the Nazis by a group of nuns on a train in Belgium in September 1938.

When an SS officer attempted to take the Austrian-born girl off the train, the nuns protected her and helped her safe passage to Britain.

Ms Huss said: “My grandmother lost her father in the Holocaust and people who were related to me died. You just can’t make a joke like that.”

Mr Barton’s case took more than a year to be heard at Oban Sheriff Court, with at least 10 preliminary hearings taking place before last week’s trial.

The long wait added to the distress caused to her family, Ms Huss said.

“I didn’t want to go back there, to the Highlands. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long. I had moved on, but it kept coming back to haunt me.

“I was crying because of the pressure of going back. I didn’t want to get depressed again. I asked if I could have a screen round me when I gave evidence but it wasn’t possible. Seeing everyone in court made me feel physically sick.”

The experience of giving her evidence was particularly traumatic, Ms Huss said. “The procurator fiscal [public prosecutor] spoke to me for about an hour, asking me personal questions about where I work and live and my family. I felt quite violated, very exposed. I had no one in the court with me.

“The defence lawyer questioned me. It was absolutely horrendous. I was shaking.

“He was asking: ‘Is it true you’re a spoilt brat? Is it true the Huss family are vindictive and nasty?’

“None of it was related to the incident. He was trying to make me look like the criminal.”

The case against Mr Barton was dropped before he was required to give evidence, leaving Ms Huss feeling “like a scapegoat”.

Ms Huss, who left Ballet West in 2011, said she is now determined to move on with the next stage of her life.

She has returned to live in London, is studying for a dance diploma and works in a ballet school offering tuition to young dancers.

She said: “I want to start classes for religious Jews who are often put off ballet because they have to wear a leotard and tights. They could wear whatever they wanted. The trial hasn’t deterred me from pursuing my career in ballet.”

Last updated: 6:45am, November 8 2013