Riva Krymalowski as Anna, in the film, which opens the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival Feb. 27. (photo from betacinema.com)
The Vancouver Jewish Film Festival opens the night of Feb. 27 with the film When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which offers a peek at a pivotal event in writer and illustrator Judith Kerr’s life.
Kerr passed away just under a year ago, at her home in London, England, at the age of 95. She had dozens of children’s books to her credit, including The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat; Mog became a series, ultimately totaling 17 picture books.
Born in Berlin, Kerr and her family – parents and older brother – fled Germany in 1933, in the days leading up to the election that brought Hitler into power. Her father, Alfred Kerr (né Kempner), a journalist and writer, was a vocal critic of the Nazis even at that time and was warned that the police were about to arrest him. The story of the family’s journey to Switzerland, then France and, ultimately, England, is told in the children’s book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which was published in 1971.
The film, obviously, is based on that book, and it captures the fear, excitement, frustration and other feelings experienced by the family as a whole, but mainly by 10-year-old Judith – named Anna in both the book and film. We see that Anna copes, in part, by drawing and colouring pictures of disasters, such as a shipwreck or an avalanche. She, her brother and parents are close, thankfully, as they are uprooted more than once and the family unit is the only constant in their lives.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is both charming – the family’s interactions – and disturbing, in that the family is fleeing a danger that killed millions. It also raises current-day issues of what it means to be a refugee. Anna and her brother Max are given one night to pack. They are allowed one toy and two books. Anna’s choice of her stuffed dog over her pink rabbit gives the story its name.
For more on the film festival, visit vjff.org.