Director Steven Spielberg has said he “wasn’t aware” of anti-Semitic views attributed to author Roald Dahl when producing his latest film The BFG, based on the story from the classic children’s book.

Spielberg, who directed Munich and Schindler’s List, said he had “no idea of anything that was purportedly assigned to him, that he might have said,” when asked about Dahl’s views at the Cannes Film Festival.

British-born Dahl, who died in 1990, was described as a “blatant anti-Semite” by Anti-Defamation League director Ab Foxman shortly.

Interviewed in the New Statesman, Dahl had said: “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere. Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

He added: “I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they were always submissive.”

Dahl was also critical of Israeli aggression in the Middle East, referring to the “horror and bestiality of the [1983] Lebanon War,” where thousands of Palestinian civilians were massacred by Christian militias under the watch of Israeli general Ariel Sharon.

“It makes one wonder in the end what sort of people these Israelis are… It is like the good old Hitler and Himmler times all over again,” Dahl said.