Name: Kasia Balls

Text title: When Hitler stole pink rabbit

Author: Judith Kerr

Text type: Novel

Date finished: 18/10/18

When Hitler stole pink rabbit is set in Germany during the time of Hitler’s rule. The story is written about a Jewish family who is forced to flee Germany because of the possibility of Hitler taking over. This novel is written on the perspective of Anna an 8-year-old girl and her journey with her family living as refugees abroad. We are shown the perspective of a young naive child going from a wealthy life to becoming a refugee, the thought of change moving to a foreign country, learning a new language and new people seemed exciting and adventurous to Anna. Unlike Annas parents, they were fearful and scared for their life.

The novel began with Anna and her parents (Papa, Mama) and brother (Max) and the maid (Heimpi) living their everyday life in Germany as Jewish people, there are hints that big change is going to happen with posters of Hitler around the city, fights at school between Nazis and Sozis. Papa decides to save his family and move them all to Switzerland before the elections. They must leave everything in their past life in Germany behind, like “Pink Rabbit” Annas stuffed animal. Anna does not really understand the seriousness her urgent move to Switzerland but she can feel that her parents are scared “Anna suddenly felt a sigh of relief watching her mother take a deep breath and smile as they cross the Swiss border”.

The author used many different themes that he addressed throughout this novel, one of which is optimism, or hope. Throughout most of the novel, Onkel Julius shows optimism and it always gives Anna hope that it will all be okay. It all starts with his optimism that Papas fears pre the elections are for nothing, that Hitler will never be in power. However, we see later that Papa had reason to fear and want to flee Germany because Hitler became the leader shortly after. Later in the novel, Onkel Julius visits the family in Switzerland and informs Papa that the Nazis had burned all his books but showed his optimism saying “But of course, this situation in Germany can’t carry on much longer.” Towards the end, all optimism and hope are lost when Onkel Julius takes his own life “he seemed to think that the situation in Germany was bound to change” but his realization is that things were just getting worse. When the Nazis finally strip the last bit of enjoyment from him, by taking away his zoo pass, he finally loses his hope and his life.

Another theme shown is people adapt to most circumstances apart from the loss of hope. This is the main theme as we follow Anna and her family having to adapt to their life as refugees –  leaving everything in their life behind, having to learn a new language, find new work, make new friends and go to new schools. There have been three cases in this novel where they move their lives to a new country to have a better life, Switzerland, France, and England. Moving to Switzerland before the elections seemed like a good idea to Papa until the paper in Zurich began to not publish his work anymore, he can no longer afford to employ Heimpi or care for his family properly. His next option was to move the family to France and then England to get work.  To Anna “it seemed rather fun and adventurous to be a refugee to have no home and not know where one was going to live” “I think I might quite like being a refugee.” But later she asks her father “Do you think we’ll ever really belong anywhere?”

The novel teaches the reader how suddenly the life you know and take for granted can change so quickly.  Almost overnight Papa is in danger of losing his job, his passport, his freedom.  There is the loss in position or status of those forced to flee.  People who were “distinguished writers, actors or scientists and were now trying to eke out a living in France”.  But even in exile, they might not be safe “The Nazis are putting a price on your Pa’s head”.

Refugees have to leave their previous life behind. They can take very little with them.  In the book the Nazis confiscated all their belongings and the house after they left, Anna felt she had made a terrible mistake of not bringing pink rabbit with her, “it had been a terrible mistake and now she would never be able to put it right.”  But as Anna points out several times, the most important thing is that the family is still together “I don’t really mind where we are as long as we’re all together”.

New Zealand has just raised the number of refugees allowed here to 1500 per year.  But the UN figures show that there are about 25.4 million refugees worldwide in 2018. That’s about five and a half times New Zealand’s population, being forced from their homes and countries and needing somewhere to settle.

Another important issue the novel shows is how easy it is for parents to influence the thinking and behaviour of their children and to pass on their prejudices.  This was shown when Anna and Max were playing with Vreneli and Franz, and the two German children. Vreneli and Franz are forced to pick who to play with.  This is as a result of the German parents’ beliefs and opinions, which are then shown to affect how their children go on to treat Anna and Max.

 I would recommend this text because it teaches you about the events that happened to thousands of people during Hitler’s reign in Germany. That the people who had to flee as refugees were probably the lucky ones even with the difficulties they had to face living as refugees.

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