Roald Dahl’s family has apologised for antisemitic comments made by the author.
The creator of books such as Matilda, The BFG, The Witches and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory died at the age of 74 in 1990 but has since regularly topped lists of the nation’s favourite authors and his stories continued to be beloved by children around the world.
However, antisemitic comments he made have cast a shadow over his personal legacy.
In an interview with the New Statesman in 1983, the author 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.”
He added: “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”
A statement from the Dahl family has now been posted on the website of The Roald Dahl Story Company under the title: “Apology for antisemitic comments made by Roald Dahl.”
First reported by the Sunday Times, it says: “The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements.
“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations.
“We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”
Dahl’s works continue to be popular for film and stage adaptations.
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews: “This apology should have happened long ago – and it is of concern that it has happened so quietly now. Roald Dahl’s abhorrent antisemitic prejudices were no secret and have tarnished his legacy.
“The apology should be restated on the questionable Roald Dahl Day on 13 September. As well as recognising his undeniable impact on children’s literature, teaching of Dahl’s books should also be used as an opportunity for young people to learn about his intolerant views.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The admission that the famous author’s antisemitic views are ‘incomprehensible’ is right. For his family and estate to have waited thirty years to make an apology, apparently until lucrative deals were signed with Hollywood, is disappointing and sadly rather more comprehensible.
“It is a shame that the estate has seen fit mere to apologise for Dahl’s antisemitism rather than to use its substantial means to do anything about it.
“The apology should have come much sooner and been published less obscurely, but the fact that it has come at all – after so long – is an encouraging sign that Dahl’s racism has been acknowledged even by those who profit from his creative works, which so many have enjoyed.”
Rabbi David Meyer, Executive Director of the Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) welcomed the apology, but urged education about his views when his works are taught in the classroom.
“That such a creative and popular author, whose books reached millions of children across the world, could have held such insipid and intolerant views has been a long standing cause for concern.
“His family denouncing these views is an important step. Nevertheless, Roald Dahl’s abhorrent views cannot be ignored, they should be a required element when teaching about the author and used as an opportunity for schools to educate children on the far reaching dangers of anti-semitism and the importance of showing respect for all. ”
A new version of The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway, was released earlier this year, while Hollywood stars including Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance, and Danny DeVito have all appeared in big screen versions of his stories.
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