Radio Review: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr – read by Rosemary Leach and abridged in five parts by Elizabeth Bradbury BBC4 Extra

There is something cosy and reassuring about the voice of Rosemary Leach as she related Judith Kerr’s semi-autobiographical account of how her Jewish family escaped from Nazi Germany.
Seen through the eyes of school girl Anna the children’s story is nevertheless complex in the themes and narratives entwined in what on the face of it is straight forward escape to freedom story.
It quickly comes clear that the one person in most danger is Anna’s father who as a Jewish writer is destined for a concentration camp as soon as Hitler comes to power in 1933. With the build up to the election he becomes increasingly aware of his and his family’s potential fate and looks to leave Germany.

Anna and her brother Max are aware of the dangers as they overhear the conversations of adults and in one memorable chat with a school friend flush a Nazi badge down a toilet having decided Hitler is bad.
Her father was a drama critic and a distinguished writer whose books were burned by the Nazis.
Another layer of the 1971 novel is that of children who are removed from their familiar surroundings and friends and taken to a country where they don’t know the language and the culture and social norms are different. It is a layer about being a refugee – a status that so many children suffer from then and now.
From Germany the family first move to Switzerland but as the Nazis come to power their next stop is Paris where Judith learns the language and settles into to school excelling in her studies although failing her needlework exam.
As the Third Reich asserts its power and work for her father dries up the family moves to Britain where a new language and new schools await. However this is not 1939 but three years earlier so clearly Anna’s father had good insight into what horrors were soon to take place in Europe.
Those horrors symbolised by the news of the death of favourite relative at the hands of the Nazis is a reminder of just how close Anna came to being another victim of the German Government’s descent into war and genocide. Given those horrors that Anna’s parents try to shield her from children can sense them anyway as they do what all children do and see their life whatever happens as normal.
Harry Mottram
The novel was made into a film in 2021 directed by director Caroline Link with Riva Krymalowski as Annapictured.

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