“I don’t think I’ve gotten used to being on the run yet.” These words would be slightly alarming in any given context, but they are downright terrifying coming from the mouth of a ten-year-old girl. The setting of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is, at first, Berlin in early 1933, in the week or so leading up to the election of Adolf Hitler to the position of Chancellor of Germany – in other words, before he abdicated this position in favor of a full-on dictatorship and before he set into motion the plan that would kill six million Jewish people and four million other political enemies. It was clearly quite the provocative time, and our young protagonists’ parents, who have been living a life of hiding their religion and heritage, are constantly asked about when they’ll vote.

We have seen many stories set within the period that will follow this, filled with concentration camps and gas chambers and the tattooing of numbers on forearms. The uncertain and suffocatingly stress-inducing time just before, though, has gone unfortunately under-explored, though we have assuredly known that this must have been what it was like – navigating the suspicion of one’s neighbors, always coming up with cover stories for why one’s family members might suddenly disappear, occasionally fleeing under circumstances that must, to the Nazi-sympathetic, seem more than a little fishy. This is what young Anna Kemper (Riva Krymalowski) must face, and it provides a unique perspective on a unique time in history.

The character of Anna is loosely based on Judith Kerr, the author whose novel is the basis of this screenplay (written by Anna Brüggemann and director Caroline Link). The names have been changed, and one imagines that the details of certain events were truncated, since Kerr could not have been privy to every movement made by her parents during their travels from Berlin to Zurich, then to Paris and, finally, London. Of course, this film is not meant to be the documentary truth but a reflection of it, through the eyes of a girl who was made to grow up far too quickly.

Anna begins the story in Berlin with her ailing father Arthur (Oliver Masucci), her watchful and protective mother Dorothea (Carla Juri, in the quietly devastating performance of a woman who keeps having to make unthinkable and selfless sacrifices for her husband and children), and her brother Max (Marinus Hohmann). Arthur is the host of a radio program whose political content has placed the man in the direct line of sight for Hitler and his militant followers. This eventually leads Arthur to leave under cover of night, while his family must abandon their home and housekeeper Heimpi (Ursula Werner) to the first stop on their journey.

The film settles into something of a formula, with the Kempers finding a new home with the help of Uncle Julius (Justus von Dohnányi) and ultimately having to move when the surrounding German forces and that looming election close in. The movie, though, is very much about seeing all of this from the perspective of a child. Link and, in a performance of surprising naturalism and very little precociousness, Krymalowski does an effective job of not introducing any elements that would make the telling of this story too precious toward or evasive of history.

We know what will happen in the following 12 years of Hitler’s reign of terror, which extended far beyond mere physical and psychological violence. The final scene of this film, which has the Kemper family arriving in the country they would come to call home and the children acknowledging yet another clean slate on which to write their future, doesn’t pretend that the horrors of what would follow never happen or that they were not already omnipresent. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – the title coming from a choice Anna must make between two stuffed playthings, one of which she leaves behind – only tells the story of how one fortunate family made it out before they could suffer the worst of those horrors.

The film provides a unique perspective on a unique time in history.
80 %
A Child’s Resilience
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