When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Judith Kerr

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Judith Kerr

This semi-autobiographical and unforgettable story, of a Jewish family fleeing from Germany before the start of the Second World War, now reissued with its original cover illustration in this very special edition. Michael Morpurgo called When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit: The most life-enhancing book you could ever wish to read. This internationally acclaimed story of one Jewish family’s flight from Hitler’s Germany has become a much-loved classic, and has been in print since its debut 45 years ago. Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people. That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it began, too busy to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe - starting with her own small life. One day, Anna’s father was missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew - home and schoolmates and well-loved toys - right out of Germany…

Review

This story was a childhood favourite, so it was exciting to delve back in again recently to see how it stood the test of time.

Based on the author’s own childhood, the story begins in Berlin in 1933 when Anna is nine and her brother Max is twelve. The Nazi party is on the rise and t looks as if they will win the upcoming election. Anna’s father is a political journalist and a Jew, who gets a tip-off that the police may be coming to take his passport, so he escapes for Prague during the night. When the Nazis do win the election, Anna, her brother and mother pack up their whole lives into two suitcases and leave for Switzerland. Anna is only allowed to take a few things and leaves behind her beloved pink rabbit.

The family settles in Switzerland and the children go to the local school, where they speak German. But Anna’s father cannot find work as a journalist because the newspapers are too scared of the Nazi regime to print his writing. Eventually, they decide to move to Paris, where Anna and Max find life a lot harder. They must learn a new language and go to a school where lessons are taught entirely in French. Eventually, they learn enough French to feel less alien, only to discover they must now move to England.

Many Holocaust stories can be terribly harrowing and unsuitable for younger readers, but this is a gentle introduction to the horrors wrought by Hitler’s regime. The reader is spared the more graphic aspects as Anna’s family escapes just in time and only occasionally get bad news back from Germany. In truth, this book can be read more as a refugee story. The sudden, dangerous dash for safety in a foreign country, the necessity of taking only what you can carry, the need to constantly start again. The story is really about the challenges of assimilation into different cultures, different languages and the difficulties of finding new friends. Anna is a stranger in a strange land and must adapt, as so many children must.

Written entirely from Anna’s perspective, this is a wonderful true adventure by a master storyteller. Children aged 7 and up will enjoy having it read to them and readers aged 10 plus can read it themselves. This is a classic that is definitely worth revisiting.


Angela Crocombe is the Children’s Book Buyer at Readings Carlton.

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