These paintings were made by the author and illustrator Judith Kerr when she was a child. Judith was born in Berlin in 1923 to a Jewish family, and fled Germany in 1933 during the rise of the Nazis. Her mother was a composer and her father was a theatre critic, poet and broadcaster who had criticized the Nazis.
Judith made these pictures of happy children at the fairground, at school and dancing and playing when she was eight or nine and still living in Germany. They are like little stories in themselves. The morning after the Nazis were elected to power, they came to Judith’s house to arrest her father. Luckily Judith’s family had already fled to Switzerland the day before. They then travelled to France before finally settling in Britain in 1936, where Judith lived for the rest of her life.
What books did Judith Kerr create as an adult?
Although Judith had dreamt of being a writer since childhood, she only started writing and illustrating books when her own children were learning to read. Her most famous and best-loved books are the Mog series and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which is one of the most popular picture books of all time. Judith wrote the semi-autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit to explain to her children what it was like for her as a Jewish child growing up during the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
More on the history of Judith Kerr’s childhood stories
These pictures were carefully preserved by Judith’s mother as the family travelled across Europe to flee the Nazis. She encouraged Judith to draw and write stories, and used to send them as presents to members of their family, as she had no money to buy gifts. As a little girl, Judith wrote her stories in German, French, English and sometimes in a mixture of all three! Some of her childhood stories still survive in her archive at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Gateshead, Newcastle.