The legendary British children’s author Roald Dahl is someone who really dominated my childhood. I remember reading ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘The Twits’ and ‘The BFG’ with absolute delight.
Imagine my exultation then when I noticed that major jewish publications like ‘The Jewish Daily Forward’, by trying to vilify Dahl, informed me that he held strong anti-jewish, even possibly anti-Semitic, opinions. (1) The BBC, which as I have documented elsewhere is dominated by jews, has also run a similar hit piece vilifying Dahl. (2)
Naturally I decided I would take a look at what Dahl’s biographers had to say on the matter and I wasn’t disappointed.
To quote biographer Jeremy Treglown:
‘There is no question that although Dahl had several Jewish friends, his anti-Semitic jokes were of a piece with an underlying dislike of Jews in general and Zionists in particular.’ (3)
As well as:
‘Dahl was no mere anti-Zionist […] he was fairly consistently and by no means secretly anti-Semitic.’ (4)
Indeed in ‘The Gremlins’ written in the summer of 1946 during the Nuremberg Trials; Dahl glorified ‘The Leader’ – a direct nod to the recently deceased Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini – who advocated the complete destruction of Communism and its replacement with an ‘internationalist, libertarian, anti-Industrial dictatorship.’ (5)
In the same work one of the more famous literary attacks that Dahl made on the jews occurs when he brutally satirizes them as follows:
‘A little pawnbroker in Houndsditch called Meatbein who, when the wailing started, would rush downstairs to the large safe in which he kept his money, open it and wriggle inside on to the lowest shelf where he lay like a hibernating hedgehog until the all-clear had gone.’ (6)
This theme of jewish cowardice and obsessive fixation with money commonly reoccurs in Dahl’s thought on the jews. Throughout his life, as a highly decorated former combat pilot, Dahl accused the jews – not without reason I might add - of being inveterate cowards and believed that all they really wanted to do was steal other people’s money not fight for it.
This feeds us nicely into point out Dahl’s habit of engaging in what we would now call trolling of jews, jewish organizations and their non-jewish supporters.
For example in the years immediately after the Second World War Dahl was asked to fund the Stepney Jewish Girls (B’nai B’rith) Club and Settlement in East London. He not only didn’t send any money to the jews (as he believed they had more than enough of their own and shouldn’t be asking non-jews to fund their community organizations), but he faked a letter that he sent to their supporters badgering him about how he had indeed sent them money. (7)
The resulting weeks of confusion, accusations and counter-accusations among the jews and their non-jewish supporters amused Dahl no end.
In another instance in 1974 at a dinner at the Curzon House Club; Dahl loudly complained that too many jews were in attendance. He then promptly got up and made an anti-Semitic speech against them and left the club. For this act of brave, if somewhat drunken, principle: Dahl was deprived of his membership at the club. (8)
Dahl didn’t stop there either.
He routinely made fun of jews in his works (such as the character ‘Madame Rosette’ who he described as a ‘filthy old Syrian Jewess’), (9) he delighted at making fun of jewish surnames in his letters (10)and made anti-Semitic jokes to his friends like: ‘The best part of those two guys was thrown away when they circumcised.’ (11)
In June 1982 after Israel invaded Lebanon; Dahl asserted that all thinking people had ‘started hating the Jews’, while openly proclaimed that he was ‘violently anti-Jewish’ and called for the annihilation of Israel. (12)
This provoked the slavishly philo-Semitic Catholic literary apparatchik Paul Johnson to denounce the ‘Literary Review’ for publishing Dahl’s article which he referred to as ‘pure filth’ and call for a boycott of the publication. (13)
Despite this being unsuccessful, it didn’t stop jews - particularly those in Israel – from boycotting Dahl’s works, (14) turning his publishers against him (15) and trying to undermine his status as the preeminent children’s author of the twentieth century. (16)
We can thus see that while Dahl was in no way a hardened anti-Semite in the vein of Julius Streicher. He was stridently opposed to Israel (wanting the USA to help the British Empire subdue and wipe out the Zionists) (17) and identified all jews as being Israelis. (18)
Thus, Sturrock’s claim that it is ‘hard to prove that Dahl was anti-Semitic’ (19) is simply nonsense, because it presupposes that being anti-Semitic is contingent on not having any jewish acquaintances with whom one is friendly. This wouldn’t have been true of Adolf Hitler himself for heaven’s sake!
Dahl was most definitely anti-Semitic, because he defined jewishness biologically (i.e. jews are a nation) and he believed jews were generally-speaking bad people who disliked non-jews. (20)
Thus by any definition of the term (including the academic one) he was anti-Semitic.
(3) Jeremy Treglown, 1994, ‘Roald Dahl: A Biography’, 1st Edition, Faber and Faber: London, p. 89
(4) Ibid, p. 237
(5) Ibid, p. 83
(6) Ibid, p. 82
(7) Ibid, p. 88
(8) Ibid, p. 202
(9) Ibid, p. 237
(10)Ibid, p. 88
(11)Ibid, p. 237
(12)Ibid, pp. 237-238
(13)Ibid, p. 238
(14)Ibid, p. 239
(15)Donald Sturrock, 2010, ‘Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl’, 1st Edition, Harper Press: London, p. 508
(17)Treglown, Op. Cit., p. 89
(18)Ibid, p. 237
(19)Sturrock, Op. Cit., p. 509
(20)Ibid, pp. 510-511