Roald Dahl: Royal Mint coin nixed for views. The Royal Mint scrapped plans to commemorate children’s author Roald Dahl with a special edition coin due to his perceived anti-semitic views, it emerged last night.
Proposals to release a coin to mark 100 years since Dahl’s birth were dropped by officials reportedly concerned he was “not regarded as an author of the highest reputation”.
The creator of such beloved characters as Matilda and Willy Wonka appears to have had his legacy called into question by a series of remarks about the Jewish faith in his final years.
Official minutes of a Royal Mint sub-committee meeting in 2014 were obtained under freedom of information laws, revealing how the plans were abandoned after discussion.
It said: “The themes set out below were considered but not recommended. 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl.
“Associated with antisemitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation.”
William Shakespeare and Beatrix Potter were instead selected for a series of tributes coins.
The Royal Mint’s decision came despite the Royal Mail releasing a set of Roald Dahl-themed stamps in 2012 to celebrate his characters.
Dahl was born in September 1916, meaning the limited-edition collection would likely have been released two years ago in 2016.
His rich canon of work, ranging from the BFG to the Twits, are held as some of the finest works of children’s fiction produced by a British writer.
But Dahl also harboured unsavoury views about the Jewish faith, apparently fuelled by a hostility towards Israel.
Just months before his death in 1990, he told the Independent: “”I am certainly anti-Israel, and I have become anti-Semitic.”
He also claimed newspaper coverage of Israel’s actions in Lebanon was muted as “they are primarily Jewish-owned”.
More troublingly, he suggested in a 1983 interview with the News Statesman that Hitler did not pick up on anti-semitism “for no reason”.
Last night the Royal Mint’s decision was described as “exactly right” by the former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Jonathan Arkush said: “Like many people, I read Roald Dahl to my children and he was a great writer, but he was stained with deeply visceral anti-semitism.
“I think in 2018, you can recognise somebody may be a great writer or a great composer and at the same time acknowledge their reputation has been marred by their racist views.
“There is no excuse, no cover, for Roald Dahl – the man said Hitler did terrible things to Jews but he must have had a reason.
“In other words, the Jews asked for it because they are wicked people.
“That is about as classic an antisemitic trope as you can possibly have and in the 1990s you can’t give him any excuses.”
Both relatives of Dahl and the Roald Dahl Story Company Limited were contacted for comment.
The Royal Mint told The Guardian that commemorative coins “go through a rigorous planning and design selection process” led by the independent Royal Mint Advisory Committee.
“On this occasion, the committee selected other themes to feature on coins for that particular year,” a spokeswoman said.
Wes Streeting, the Labour MP who was co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on British Jews told the paper that, despite the importance of Dahl’s storytelling, “there is no excusing or explaining away” his views.
Amanda Bowman, the vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, added: “He may have been a great children’s writer but he was also a racist and this should be remembered.”