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Roald Dahl Museum says author’s racism was ‘undeniable’

<i>Ronald Dumont/Hulton Archive/Getty Images</i><br/>Bestselling children's author Roald Dahl was well known for his anti-semitic sentiments.
Ronald Dumont/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Bestselling children's author Roald Dahl was well known for his anti-semitic sentiments.

By Catherine Nicholls and Lianne Kolirin, CNN

(CNN) — The Roald Dahl Museum in England, founded by the widow of the children’s author, has acknowledged his racism was “undeniable and indelible.”

Dahl, who died in 1990, was the creator of characters such as Matilda, the BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Willy Wonka and the Twits. His books have sold more than 300 million copies and have been translated into 63 languages, while there have been numerous adaptations of his work for both the big and small screens.

However, the author has long been regarded as controversial for his openly antisemitic views.

Now the museum, based in the village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire where Dahl lived, has posted a statement on its website to say that it “fully” supports an apology released by the Dahl family and Roald Dahl Story Company in 2020 for the author’s antisemitic views. The museum adds that it “condemns all racism directed at any group or individual.”

In the 2020 apology, the Dahl groups said they “deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his statements. “Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us,” the statement said.

Dahl publicly made a number of antisemitic comments throughout his career, including in a 1983 interview with the New Statesman in which 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.”

The museum said it has engaged with several organizations within the Jewish community since 2021, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and the Antisemitism Policy Trust.

It added that it does not publicly repeat Dahl’s antisemitic statements, but does keep a record of them in the museum’s collection “so it is not forgotten.”

“Roald Dahl’s racism is undeniable and indelible but what we hope can also endure is the potential of Dahl’s creative legacy to do some good,” the museum said.

‘Providing the full story’

The Roald Dahl Museum confirmed to CNN Thursday that the online statement issued this week is also on display in its entrance gallery.

In a statement sent to CNN, a spokesperson for the Campaign against Antisemitism said: “Mr Dahl’s stories entertain and delight millions of children and should continue to do so. At the same time, it is important that a museum and website dedicated to the author present the full story of his life and work, and that includes its darker side.”

Separately, in a statement sent to CNN, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, welcomed the museum’s acknowledgment of the author’s antisemitism.

“The new statements – in their entrance gallery and on their website – are an important starting point with regard to providing the full story about a man whose works are enjoyed by millions. I look forward to working with the museum more closely to explore further ways to raise awareness on this issue and educate about anti-Jewish hate,” she said.

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