Roald Dahl museum to place apology plaque marking his antisemitism

The author said that Jews had switched 'from victims to barbarous murderers'


A picture of author Roald Dahl (L) is seen on display at the newly renovated Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, north-west of London, England on October 16, 2018. - From a dingy and macabre hut tucked away in the English countryside, author Roald Dahl dreamed up worlds that have enchanted youngsters across the globe. Stuffed with hundreds of weird and wonderful mementos, the garden hut was where the cherished children's novelist sat in a battered armchair and wrote his fantastical tales. A museum including a replica of the hut in the same village of Great Missenden where Dahl lived reopens to the public on Saturday following an extensive renovation triggered by a flash flood. (Photo by Robin MILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBIN MILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

The Roald Dahl museum has said the author’s racism was “undeniable and indelible” in an anti-racism statement published on their website.

In the statement, issued online and to be displayed on a panel in the museum’s entryway, the charity said that they “deeply apologise” for the impact of his antisemitism.

The author of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a “contradictory person,” they said. “He could be kind…however, there are also recorded impacts of him being very unkind and worse, including writing and saying antisemitic things about Jewish people”. 

They maintain that Dahl’s “creative legacy is an important part of the heritage of English literature, but importantly does not mean flawless”.

Roald Dahl admitted in 1990 that he had “become antisemitic”. In an interview with the New Statesman in 1983, he said: “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”. “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t pick on them for no reason,” he continued.

Dahl also said that Jews had “switched so rapidly from victims to barbarous murderers,” and that the US was “so utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions” that the country “dare not defy Israel”.

The Roald Dahl museum worked on its apology with Jewish organisations, including the Board of Deputies, the Antisemitism Policy Trust, and the Communities Securities Trust. Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, said that the museum engaged with them “in good faith”. He said “the desire of staff to educate themselves on antisemitism” was clear.

Two years ago, the author’s family apologised for his antisemitism. The apology, which the museum has endorsed, said that the “prejudiced remarks… stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories”.

Roald Dahl’s work has been criticised since his death. In 2018, plans to celebrate his work with a commemorative coin were dropped because of concerns at the Royal Mint over his antisemitism. They said he was “not regarded as an author of the highest reputation”.

This February, the Telegraph reported that Dahl’s books had been altered by “sensitivity readings”. Dahl also changed his books himself. In the first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-Loompas were enslaved by Willy Wonka from the “deepest and darkest parts of the African jungle”. By 1973, they were “little fantasy creatures”.

The Roald Dahl museum was founded in 2001 by the author’s widow, Liccy. Their objective as a charity is to “further the education of the public in the art of literature and creativity”.

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