Jewish groups welcome apology for Roald Dahl’s anti-semitism

6 December 2020, 13:21 | Updated: 6 December 2020, 14:59

Children's author Roald Dahl, pictured in 1971, died at the age of 74 in 1990.
Children's author Roald Dahl, pictured in 1971, died at the age of 74 in 1990. Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

Jewish groups have told LBC they welcome an apology from Roald Dahl’s family for “the lasting and understandable hurt caused by” the late author’s anti-semitic comments.

However, the Partnerships for Jewish Schools are calling for the author's "abhorrent views" to be a "required element when teaching about the author".

The children’s author’s anti-semitism has cast a long shadow over his legacy.

In an undated statement, quietly uploaded to a section of the Roald Dahl website, the family and Roald Dahl Story Company said they “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.”

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Roald Dahl's works continue to be popular for film and stage adaptations, including Matilda in the West End.
Roald Dahl's works continue to be popular for film and stage adaptations, including Matilda in the West End. Picture: PA

In an interview with the New Statesman in 1983, seven years before his death, 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."

Mark Gardner, CEO of Community Security Trust, a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats, told LBC they “welcome the apology from the family because Roald Dahl’s anti-semitism is very well known”.

“It is important that people speak out especially when it comes from such a well known public figure like Roald Dahl,” Mr Gardner added.

Rabbi David Meyer OBE is calling for Roald Dahl's anti-semitic views to be taught in school when studying the author.
Rabbi David Meyer OBE is calling for Roald Dahl's anti-semitic views to be taught in school when studying the author. Picture: PAJES

Partnerships for Jewish Schools, which works with 100 Jewish primary and secondary schools, said the "family denouncing these views is an important step".

Executive Director Rabbi David Meyer OBE told LBC: "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."

He added: "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."

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Roald Dahl's works continue to be popular for film and stage adaptations, including a new version of The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway, which was released earlier this year.

The creator of books such as Matilda, The BFG and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory died at the age of 74 in 1990.