Roald Dahl commemorative coin rejected by Royal Mint over author's antisemitic views

A subcommittee also said the novelist was 'not regarded as an author of the highest reputation'

Jack Shepherd
Wednesday 07 November 2018 09:13
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Roald Dahl in 1971
Roald Dahl in 1971

Plans to commemorate Roald Dahl with a special edition coin were scrapped over concerns about the children's author's perceived antisemetic views.

Royal Mint decided to drop proposals to mark the centenary of Dahl's birth during subcommittee meeting held in 2014, also citing that he was “not regarded as an author of the highest reputation”.

The company instead decided to commission coins celebrating the lives of William Shakespeare and Beatrix Potter.

The minutes, obtained by The Guardian, read: “The themes set out below were considered but not recommended. Hundredth anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl [in 2016]. Associated with antisemitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation."

Dahl is one of Britain's most celebrated children's authors, penning Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and The BFG.

However, there was a darker side to the novelist. Dahl once told The New Statesmen: ”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. I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I'd rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they [the Jews] were always submissive.”

Speaking to The Independent just months before his death in 1990, Dahl exacerbated the situation, 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.”

Royal Mint's decision to forgo celebrating the author has been met with praise from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, their vice president Amanda Bowman calling it the "correct" decision. Labour MP Wes Streeting said that future generations of children should still enjoy Dahl's work but called it the "right decision" to drop celebratory plans.

He added: “In some ways, for those of us who have never really known this side of Roald’s character, it’s quite upsetting actually.”

A spokesperson for Royal Mint said: “Themes submitted for consideration to feature on Royal Mint coins go through a rigorous planning and design selection process governed by an independent panel known as The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC).

“Members of this committee include independent experts in the fields of art, history and design, as well as technical specialists from The Royal Mint.

“There are usually a large number of subjects nominated and it is therefore not possible to feature them all. So the aim is to create a shortlist of themes that reflect the most significant and appropriate events for national commemoration.

“On this occasion, the committee selected other themes to feature on coins for that particular year.”

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The Roald Dahl Story Company has not responded to request for comment.

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