Wednesday 16 April 2014

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit

One warm day, last summer, the two youngest children and I went to a book signing by Judith Kerr. This was part of a round of signings in honour of her 90th birthday. We came home with two more of her Mog books and the memory of a lady who was happy to chat the the children about their cats and her cat.

At the time, I vaguely remembered reading When Hitler stole pink rabbit as a school girl. More recently, I found this autobiographical book, in the library and decided to reread it.

Judith Kerr was brought up in a secular Jewish family in post World War I Germany. Her father, Alfred, was a well known anti-Nazi journalist who wrote and broadcast against the Nazi party which was gaining ground. Just before the 1933 elections which brought Hitler to power, Alfred's position was becoming risky and being warned, by a sympathiser in the police force that he was at risk, he suddenly left for Switzerland. The rest of the family soon followed as the election was taking place.

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit follows Anna, otherwise known as Judith, through life in neutral Switzerland, Paris and eventually to England. The time must have been traumatic for the parents: their income disappeared as newspapers in Switzerland refused to publish Alfred's work; the Germans burnt his work and put a price on his head. They managed to protect the children so that Anna and her brother thrived on their changed circumstances. 

Paris wasn't any better for the parents and initially, wasn't great for the children either. The description of going to school in an unknown language is worth reading but gradually, both children managed to excel. Max, the brother, really hadn't worked in school in Germany but rose to the challenge of learning French and did far better academically, in Paris. One gets the impression that he had been rather bored before. Judith Kerr says in her note at the end of the book that the years of sudden exile in Switzerland and then in France

It was more difficult than our life in Germany, but for my brother and me it was also more interesting and I thought at the time that on the whole it was an improvement.

The book ends as the family arrive in England in the rain.

One of the reasons that I read this was to see whether it was a potential read aloud for an interwar years history unit that we hope to do next year. I plan to read this to my children, currently 5 and 7. It is a particularly useful background to what was happening in Nazi Germany but isn't written in a frightening manner. It does mention a family friend who, in very reduced circumstances because of his background,  takes an overdose and dies. Beyond this, whilst the threat to Jews and the Kerrs, in particular, is firmly in the picture, what comes across is Kerr's love for her family and zest for her new surroundings.


Disclaimer: I borrowed this from my local library to read.

Every bed of Roses

Saturday review of books at Semicolon.


  1. Thanks for reminding me about this book. It's on our bookshelf, and my youngest should be encouraged to read it.

    But we have a dry day, so we should probably be in the gardens rather than reading!

    1. Classics can wait for a rainy day but I expect that she will enjoy this book.