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Curious George Flees the Nazis

 

Rey, H.A. Curious George. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1941. Cover illustration by H.A. Rey (1941). Available at Amazon and all fine bookstores.
Rey, H.A. Curious George. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1941. Cover illustration by H.A. Rey (1941). Available at Amazon and all fine bookstores.

I’m often asked where I find the topics for my blogs. It boils down to reading a lot of books and delving into the research for whatever book I’m working on at the time. Anyone who has done research for the purpose of producing a written piece knows what it’s like going down the “rabbit hole.” In other words, you get side tracked and a week later you pop up your head and say “I better get back to my original target.”

I read books, periodicals, historical articles, and anything I can get my hands on that pertains to the subject I’m working on. So in early January 2017 I noticed an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “As ‘Curious George’ Turns 75, New Light On His Escape from the Nazis.” Coincidentally, several days earlier in a separate source, I found the address where George’s creators lived in pre-war, pre-occupied Paris.

H.A. & Margret Rey

curious
Hans and Margret Rey. Photo by Penny Stearns Palmer (date unknown). Wikimedia Commons.

I’m always fascinated by relationships that endure for decades. One of the reasons for these successful relationships seems to be where each partner brings a different “skill set” to the relationship—typically one’s strengths offsets the partner’s weaknesses. You might say they are the ideal partnerships. In most cases, the partners share a common interest. In the case of H.A. and Margret, they both loved monkeys. Margret would write the stories and H.A. would illustrate them.

Fifi Becomes George

Hans Augusto Reyersbach (1898–1977) and Margarete Waldstein (1906–1996) were young German Jews who married in 1935 and fell in love with Paris, France during their honeymoon. Moving to Paris in 1936, they lived at the Terrass Hotel (12–14, rue Joseph de Maistre) in Montmartre for the next four years.

Margret & H.A. Rey signing books. Photo by anonymous (c. 1950). Wikimedia Commons.
Margret & H.A. Rey signing books. Photo by anonymous (c. 1950). Wikimedia Commons.

During these years, Hans wrote and published his first book Raffy and the Nine Monkeys. Shortly after, H.A. and Margret Rey (they had changed their names) wrote a sequel about Fifi, one of the nine monkeys. The Rey’s received a sizeable advance for The Adventures of Fifi and two future books. Little did they know that Fifi would soon become George and their publisher’s advance would save their lives.

I guess you might say this was the first written record of monkey transgender.

Curious George Escapes From the Nazis

Rey, H.A. Curious George. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1941. Curious George and the man in the yellow hat—illustration by H.A. Rey (1941). Available at Amazon and all fine bookstores.
Rey, H.A. Curious George. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1941. Curious George and the man in the yellow hat—illustration by H.A. Rey (1941). Available at Amazon and all fine bookstores.

If you’ve read the series of books about Curious George, you’ll notice the theme whereby George escapes from many predicaments. His biggest escape came in June 1940. The German army had invaded France and by early June, they were close to Paris. For the past seven years, the world watched as Adolf Hitler and his henchmen began to eliminate people they deemed as non-Aryan, including German citizens who happened to be Jewish. The Rey’s decided to leave France.

As the Germans approached Paris (they would enter the city on 14 June 1940), thousands of citizens began to leave Paris by foot, car, wagons, bicycles, trains, or any other means of transportation they could find. The western and southern roads were clogged with people fleeing the city. On 11 June 1940, H.A. purchased parts of bicycles and constructed two bikes. At 5:30 AM on the twelfth, H.A. and Margret left Paris. In their knapsack was the manuscript for Curious George and his first book.

Portrait of H.A. Rey in early seventies reading to children. Photo by Elsa Dorfman (c. early 1970s). PD-GNU Free Documentation License. Wikimedia Commons.
Portrait of H.A. Rey in early seventies reading to children. Photo by Elsa Dorfman (c. early 1970s). PD-GNU Free Documentation License. Wikimedia Commons.

The journey for George and his creators took them to Orléans, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, and finally to New York City. They arrived in the United States on 14 October 1940 aboard the S.S. Uruguay. They met with their editor, Grace Hogarth who at the time was working for Houghton Mifflin. She signed the Rey’s to a four-book deal and convinced them to change the monkey’s name from Fifi to Curious George. The book Curious George was published in 1941.

Politically Correct Even Back Then

It was felt that publishing and selling Curious George in England would offend King George VI. So they changed the name of the monkey to Zozo just for that market. I guess naming a monkey after a king doesn’t sit too well with the royal family.

Curious George Today

Rey, Margret & H.A. Curious George and the Birthday Surprise. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. Illustration in the style of H.A. Rey by Martha Weston. Available at Amazon and all fine bookstores
Rey, Margret & H.A. Curious George and the Birthday Surprise. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. Illustration in the style of H.A. Rey by Martha Weston. Available at Amazon and all fine bookstores

Houghton Mifflin continues to this day as the publisher of the Curious George series of books. More than twenty-five million copies have been sold and the original book has never been out of print. Curious George continues to get into mischief with each successive book.

Thank goodness the Man in the Yellow Hat is always there to help out George.

THE JOURNEY THAT SAVED CURIOUS GEORGE

I Take It All Back 

Remember my blog post They Listened to What I Said? It was about how the U.S. Postal Service decreased the cost of their first class stamp from forty-nine cents to forty-seven cents. Well, they’re raising it back to forty-nine cents in a couple of days. So I take back what I said.

What’s New With Sandy and Stew?

I have reached a certain point with the new book Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters? A Walking Tour of Nazi Occupied Paris (1940–1944). Three parallel activities have converged: beginning the image selection process, selecting the walks and stops (I have more than two hundred potential stops and can only fit about eighty in the two books), and writing.

Sandy has completed the new landing pages for each book, including the future books (i.e., Nazi Occupation and Jim Morrison: Walks Through Curious Paris cemeteries). I hope you will check them out especially the one “Coming Soon” page on the Nazi Occupation. There are two images posted that I think you’ll find interesting.

Doris and her wonderful team out of Dallas (AuthorLink) have completed the ePub version of the medieval book (Volume One). It is available on Kindle and iBooks. As time goes on, we suspect that more Kindle versions will be sold than the soft cover books.

Again, if you have read any of the walking tour books (in whole or part), we would very much appreciate you writing a brief review on Amazon. It seems books move up the Amazon hierarchy ladder based on the number of reviews. Thanks for taking a couple of minutes to do that for us.

Someone Is Commenting on Our Blogs

Thanks to my new friends, Sarah M. and Joanne M., co-authors of An Infamous Mistress. This is the definitive history of Grace Dalrymple Elliott (the subject of my last blog). They are about to publish a sequel called A Right Royal Scandal , it will be available in February. I can’t wait to grab a copy.

I’m very excited that they have agreed to be a guest blogger for us. It will have to wait until February after they’ve submitted the manuscript to the publisher for their third and newest book. If you read their books, please write a nice review on Amazon. I will.

If there is a topic you’d like to see a blog written about, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I love hearing from you so keep those comments coming.

Why Would You Want to Buy Our “WalksThrough History” Books?

The answer is simple. You like to see original buildings, places, and sites significant to historical events but you don’t want to spend the time researching where they are.

The walking tour books are meticulously researched so you can go directly to those sites and learn about the building’s history as well as an introduction to some of the more interesting people associated with it.

We need your help

Please tell your friends about our blog site and encourage them to visit and subscribe. Sandy and I are trying to increase our audience and we need your help through your friends and social media followers.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

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2 thoughts on “Curious George Flees the Nazis

  1. Very interesting about the Curious George connection to the Parisian exodus in WWII. Appreciate the information.

    1. Thanks Bob. Yes, and had they waited one day, the likelihood of survival as Jews in Paris would have been slim. Hope you all are doing well and travels have been interesting and safe. STEW

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