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Curious George's Incredible Escape From The Nazis

 

Curious George, the playful monkey from the eponymous series of children's books, is a beloved character who makes his way out of sticky situations. It only makes sense, then, that her "parents," husband and wife author H.A. And Margaret Ray (real names Hans Reyersbach and Margaret Waldstein), herself knows something of a way out of sticky situations. Like, Nazi sticky.

H.A. Bean and Margaret

Born in 1898 in Hamburg, Germany, Hans Reyersbach grew up in an affluent, educated Jewish family who lived near the Hagenbeck Zoo. Reyersbach loved going to the zoo to see animals, imitate their sounds, and eventually draw them. The family was also friendly with Waldstein, another clan of Jewish hamburgers with a daughter named Margaret eight years younger than their Hans.

Reyersbach joined the German Army during World War I, after which he made his living drawing and painting circus posters while attending college classes before moving to Rio de Janeiro in his 20s. Meanwhile, Margaret worked as a photographer, moving to London when Hitler came to power and then to Brazil, where she reunited with her childhood friend. They got married and started an advertising agency, but found that their Brazilian clients were having trouble pronouncing their German names, so they changed them to names that would be known around the world. He also had two marmoset monkeys of his own.


Hasty Return

The newly named Ray moved to Paris in the 30s, where he began writing and illustrating children's books. In his 1939 success, Cecily G. And hot on the heels of The Nine Monkeys, they began developing a spin-off featuring a certain curious primate when war broke out in Europe. He had signed a publishing contract to become Curious George and received a cash advance, which proved to be a godsend when the Nazis marched into Paris in May 1940.

Knowing that he would be targeted by Hitler's forces, Ray decided to flee to Brazil. Hans used spare parts to build two makeshift bicycles, Margaret Ray carefully packed his manuscript and drawings, and they fled on four wheels a few hours before the city fell. Those homemade bikes drove him to Bayonne, France, where he made his way to Spain, then Portugal, and eventually Brazil.


Curious George

They did not stay long in that land of coffee and carnivals. Within the year, he left for New York City, where he showed his valuable manuscripts and drawings to a publisher. After some editorial fine tuning (George's name was originally Fifi), the story became an instant hit with kids. Hans and Margaret Ray wrote seven more books in the Curious George series, each of which follows the shrewd chimpanzee as it escapes its plight just as its creators survived the Nazis to make it alive.

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