When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a children's novel, by Judith Kerr, first published in 1971. It is a semi-autobiographical story of a young Jewish girl and her family escaping the Nazis and the journey they experience. The family escaped through Switzerland, spent some time in Paris, before finally arriving in England in 1936.
It is based upon the early life of the author whose Jewish father, noted drama critic, journalist and screenwriter Alfred Kerr, was wanted by the Nazis. Kerr's family also fled their home in Berlin via Switzerland to escape to Paris and then England. She came to write the book when her own son was eight; after seeing The Sound of Music he remarked, "now we know what it was like when Mummy was a little girl". Kerr wanted him to know what it was really like and so wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. The book gives a distinctive child's perspective on the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany and the experience of being a refugee, reflecting Kerr's positive feelings about her own experience:
|“||My parents were wonderful. My brother Michael and I knew there wasn’t much money but it didn't seem to matter much. They made us feel it was an adventure. I much preferred it to the sort of childhood I would have had had we had a so-called normal childhood. When we were in Paris we had this grotty, tiny flat and were looking out over Paris and I said to my father, 'Isn't it wonderful being a refugee!'||”|
The book won the 1974 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. It is often used in German and British schools as an introduction to the period in history and the experience of being a refugee. The book has been used as part of the Judith Kerr collection at the Seven Stories Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle. It is an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Horn Book Fanfare Title.
The story starts in Berlin, in March 1933, when nine-year-old Anna, the main character in the trilogy, finds out one morning that her father is missing. She and her brother, Max, discover that Papa thinks that Adolf Hitler might win the elections, and has fled to Prague. Because the family is Jewish, and Papa is also a well-known Jewish author, this is important. If Hitler wins the elections, Mama, Max and Anna will join Papa in Switzerland. If Hitler loses, then Papa will come back home to Berlin. However, the plan goes wrong, and Mama and the children are rushed into Switzerland in alarming secrecy. It is at this time that Anna has to choose which toy she wishes to take with her. She opts to take her new woolly dog, and leave behind her pink rabbit toy, believing she will return to Berlin after a short time. It is from this that the title is derived as she considers that Hitler and the Nazis have "stolen" her toy. In Switzerland, they settle in a boarding house, and the family stay there for a few months. Soon, however, Papa thinks that they should move to Paris, and goes there to find out about accommodation. He comes back and wants Mama to come back with him as a prospective buyer. So Max and Anna are left on their own for a little while.
The Nazis find out about Papa as he travels, and a price of one thousand marks is put on his head. This really scares Anna and she is afraid that it means that Papa will be put in a room with one thousand coins being dropped onto his head, suffocating him. She goes on believing this until Max tells her what it really means. When Papa soon comes back to collect them (Mama stays in Paris to settle into the apartment they have bought), a porter tries to put them on the wrong train, one that will send them back to Germany, so that Papa will be imprisoned by the Nazis. Fortunately, though, Anna notices the label just in time, and they manage to get back onto the correct train to Paris. There, Max attends a boys' school, and it takes a long time but Mama finally finds an elementary school for Anna. Anna finds French hard for a little while, but one day it clicks and she finds herself able to speak it fluently. In 1936, after two years in Paris, the family decides to move again, this time to London, as Papa thinks the BBC might buy a biographical film script on Napoleon, inspired by a talk he had with the children. The story ends as Mama, Papa, Max and Anna get off the train in England, to be greeted by Mama's cousin, Otto.
- O’Brien, Catherine (11 August 2004). "Love etc". The Times. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
- Richard Moss (7 September 2009). "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit: how Seven Stories is using the Judith Kerr archive". Culture 24.
- "Judith Kerr: A Portrait of a Fascinating Life". Booktrust. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- According to the back cover of the book.