Roald Dahl Museum condemns author's 'undeniable racism'

The Roald Dahl Museum has condemned the children’s author’s ‘undeniable racism’.

Dahl, who died in 1990, is considered one of the world’s greatest children’s writers, with his legacy as visible today as ever.

Matilda The Musical became a Netflix smash-hit last Christmas, and an origin story to his character Willy Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet as the chocolate maker, is set for a theatrical release at the end of this year.

But a darker part of his legacy is his antisemitism, after he made multiple remarks beginning with anti-Israel sentiment and going on to shockingly suggest that ‘Hitler didn’t pick on them for no reason’.

Now the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre has issued a statement condemning his historical comments and confirming it was working with multiple Jewish organisations, and that its staff had received training to prevent antisemitism.

Writing on its website, the Buckinghamshire-based museum, founded by Dahl’s widow, Felicity, said: ‘We are working to be more welcoming to all who might wish to visit in person or online, by reflecting the visible diversity of our audiences in our marketing, by running accessible and inclusive recruitment campaigns for staff or trustee positions, by training our people to better understand and welcome everyone, equitably. We are working hard to do better and know we have more to do.

‘We do not repeat Dahl’s antisemitic statements publicly, but we do keep a record of what he wrote and said in the Museum’s collection, so it is not forgotten.’

They went on: ‘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.’

In 2020, the Roald Dahl Story Company and the late author’s family issued an official apology for ‘the lasting and understandable hurt caused by Roald Dahl’s antisemitic 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 charity is now working with Jewish organisations to develop resources for schools, including free education materials for primary students encouraging them to look at the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child through Dahl’s book characters.

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said the new statement, which is also visible in the museum’s gallery, is ‘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.’

A spokesperson for Antisemitism Policy Trust said: ‘We welcome this action from the museum and are pleased that it intends to pursue anti-racism education.

‘We trained staff and trustees, working closely with the museum leadership, and have enjoyed positive and constructive conversations.’

A particularly shocking quote from Dahl came in an interview with The New Statesman in 1983, where he said there was ‘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.’

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