Why have Roald Dahl's family apologised for antisemitism?

Roald Dahl’s family ‘deeply apologise’ for antisemitism in the wake of comments made by the late author about Jewish people.

A statement on his website urges people to ‘remember the lasting impact of words’.

Dahl, who died in 1990, was a prolific author of children’s books including Matilda, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

His works have been adapted into hit films over the years via his estate, the most recent being the 2020 version of The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway.

According to The Sunday Times, his family recently met ‘for the first time in several years’ to discuss how they would address anti-Semitic remarks he made during his lifetime.

The apology, posted on Dahl’s website, said the ‘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.

What is antisemitism?

Antisemitism is language or behaviour that is hostile towards Jewish people, and can include stereotypical views of Jewish people.

Why have Roald Dahl’s family apologised for antisemitism?

Dahl, 74, said in an interview with New Statesman in 1983: ‘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 is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.’

In a 1990 interview with The Independent months before his death it was clear he had not changed, saying: ‘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.’

Dahl also slammed the media as ‘Jewish-owned’.

In 2014 the Royal Mint rejected plans for a commemorative coin to celebrate his life due to his antisemitic views, according to The Guardian.

What did the family’s apology say?

Here is the statement in full.

‘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.’

The Roald Dahl Company added to The Times: ‘Apologising for the words of a much-loved grandparent is a challenging thing to do, but made more difficult when the words are so hurtful to an entire community. We loved Roald, but we passionately disagree with his antisemitic comments.

‘This is why we chose to apologise on our website, an apology easily found on Google. The Sunday Times now provides an opportunity to repeat this apology. These comments do not reflect what we see in his work — a desire for the acceptance of everyone equally — and were entirely unacceptable. We are truly sorry.’

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