Judith Kerr was born in 1920s Berlin: a time needing recovery from World War I, which would only be stifled by the 1920 founding of the Nazi Party. Kerr’s family was Jewish, and her father made them flee in 1933, reaching Switzerland the day before the elections that brought Hitler to power. She was 10 at the time, and later arrived in England as a refugee aged 12. She went to eleven different schools, lastly earning a scholarship to London’s Central School of Art and Design. Kerr loved to draw, though she confessed she did “more rubbing out than drawing.”
Notable works include ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and the ‘Mog’ series. Both were stories composed for her children: her husband, Nigel Kneale, was a screenwriter who would often work away on film shoots. He was not able to make it to tea, so Kerr created a friendly visitor. The Mog series was based on her own cats, with the last instalment being published in 2002.
Kerr wrote ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ for her children, when her youngest commented on the “The Sound of Music” that “now we know what it was like when Mummy was a little girl.” She wrote the semi-autographical piece on having to leave behind her favourite toy: pink rabbit. It is about fleeing Germany: the motif of abandoning her home, friends and toys. Despite this, she talks positively of her childhood. Kerr confessed she didn’t realise the toll it took on her parents; she was simply a little girl who got to explore different countries. Her heartening take on refuge is readable when the story’s protagonist, Anna, asks her father if they will ever really belong: “we’ll belong a little in lots of places, and I think that may be just as good.”