Children's favourite Roald Dahl: proudly antisemitic

By Jessica Elgot and Anna Sheinman, September 15, 2011
Self-admitted antisemite: Roald Dahl

Self-admitted antisemite: Roald Dahl

In his writing shed Roald Dahl created friendly giants, giant peaches and horrible headteachers, but in the last few years of his life, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author revealed that he held virulently antisemitic views.

Mr Dahl, who died in November 1990, is in the spotlight this week because of a £500,000 campaign by former model Sophie Dahl to save her grandfather's writing shed.

The author lost many fans in 1983, when he described the "horror and bestiality of the Lebanon War" in a book review for the Literary Review, saying 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."

He accused the US of being "utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions" and asked the rhetorical question: "must Israel, like Germany, be brought to her knees before she learns how to behave in this world?"

Still more extreme views came to light in later interviews with the New Statesman in 1983 and the Independent in 1990.

In the New Statesman he 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.

"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 [the Jews] were always submissive."

Eight months before his death, he admitted to the Independent that he considered himself to be an antisemite. "I'm certainly anti-Israel and I've become antisemitic inasmuch as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism."

The money sought by Sophie Dahl will be used to restore the shed Mr Dahl visited every day, and move the interior from the family garden in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, to the nearby Roald Dahl Museum.

While Amelia Foster, the director of the museum, insists that the Dahl family has already made a "very significant financial contribution", the reaction has been mixed.

Radio 4's Today noted: "Half a million seems like a lot of money for a shed".

Last updated: 4:24pm, September 16 2011