Seminar Paper, 2006, 13 Pages
2. Characters, Time and Setting
2.2. Time and Setting
3. Life in Exile
4. Positive Attitude of Life
5. Family Togetherness
6. Imagination and Fantasy vs. Reality
7. Children – the victims?
8. Holocaust and Nazi Period
8.1. Teaching the Holocaust in School?
9. Happy or Tragic Ending?
11.1. Primary Sources
11.2. Secondary Sources
The novels also were written for my children, but deal with my own childhood as a refugee from Hitler, first in Switzerland and France, later in England during the war. It was so different from the way they grew up that I wanted them to know about it, and I wanted also to explain that it wasn’t nearly as horrific as it sounded. (Judith Kerr)
Man darf dort nichts Realistisches suchen. Edgar Allan Poe sagte, dass man am Rande des Abgrunds nicht hinunterschaut, weil der Schrecken unermesslich ist. [...] Wie sollte ich realistisch das zeigen, von dem zu reden ich nicht einmal den Mut hatte? Es ist so unfassbar, dass es fast wieder einfach ist, glauben zu machen, dass das alles nur ein Spiel war. (Roberto Benigni)
In the following pages I want to show the similarities and differences between the book “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” by Judith Kerr and Roberto Benigni’s film “Life Is Beautiful”. These two personal statements of Judith Kerr and Roberto Benigni already show that their works are a bit different. Therefore I will concentrate both as well on the shared features as on the distinct ones.
The romantic fairy tale “Life Is Beautiful” won Academy Awards for Best Music and Best Foreign Language Film and Benigni won Best Actor for his role. It was also the winner at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998 and it won the Best Jewish Experience Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival.
After a short comparison of the characters, the setting and time I will continue with the problems a family have when living a life in exile. Afterwards, I will analyse both works with reference to the attitude of life and to the family togetherness. Furthermore, I will try to examine the contrasts between “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” and “Life Is Beautiful” regarding fantasy and reality and the question arises as to whether the children can be considered as victims. The next important aspect is the representation of the Holocaust and teaching this topic in school. Finally, I will discuss the ending of both “Life Is Beautiful” and “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”. The conclusion will comprise the main points and some suggestions for further discussion.
The main character in “Life Is Beautiful” Guido Orefice is always in a good mood and he doesn’t lose his laughter and humour even in the concentration camp. “Life Is Beautiful” is about a happy living family that is suddenly deported into a concentration camp. But Guido wants to protect his son Giosuè from the horrors by convincing him that the camp is just a game. “Life Is Beautiful” as well as “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” is about a Jewish family during the World War II. You can draw a comparison between Guido and the father of Anna and Max because both of them want only the best for their children. Guido protects his son from the horrors which surround them with all his power and Anna’s father cares also well for his family. He is the only one who earns money in spite of the financial difficulties in Switzerland and France. Both try to hold the family together and to give the other family members emotional security. In chapter eight Anna is disappointed but her father consoles her and she accepts being a refugee: “It seemed rather fine and adventurous to be a refugee, to have no home and not to know where one was going to live”.
Another similarity is the stereotype description of Jews. Anna’s father can be compared to Guido’s uncle Eliseo because both live a life in wealthy middle-class. Anna’s father earns good money because he is a famous writer and he also writes for newspapers and Eliseo is the owner of a hotel. Furthermore, the bent nose is also a stereotype description of Jews. In “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” Anna and her friend Elsbeth have at the beginning of the book a conversation about it and Elsbeth tells Anna: “’I thought Jews were supposed to have bent noses, but your nose is quite ordinary. Has your brother got a bent nose?’” In Kerr’s story it gets from the beginning clear that Anna and her family are Jewish: “’I am! My father was talking to us about it only last week. He said we were Jews and no matter what happened my brother and I must never forget it.’” Whereas in “Life Is Beautiful” Guido never expresses his Jewish identity. The audience starts to realise little by little his Jewish identity and then the film starts to become tragic after the comedy in the first half. One of the first hints is that Eliseo’s horse has been painted with a slogan called “Cavallo ebreo”.
Anna’s father is also contrary to Guido concerning honesty. He tells Anna and Max the truth about their situation and their sudden escape from Germany, that means that the children know that they are in a dangerous situation and the reason for their emigration. But he doesn’t tell them about his first escape to Prague because he doesn’t want that the children are worried about it and because his trip to Prague was really sudden and secret. But in Guido’s case it is his full intention that Giosuè doesn’t know the real situation.
“When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” starts in 1933 when the family has to leave Berlin and ends in 1935 with the arrival in London and when the family continues the life as a refugee family there. In contrast to that “Life Is Beautiful” begins in 1939 when Guido comes from the country to a large Tuscan town of Arezzo. There he falls in love with a school teacher called Dora and the story continues six years later, in 1945, when Guido and Dora already have a son. The film really takes place during the World War II and “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” before the war. Consequently, you can see that Jews were already persecuted before the war.
As far as the setting is concerned Anna and her family move from one country to another. They live in Germany and first of all they move to Switzerland. Then they emigrate to France and finally they leave Paris in order to live in England. But “Life Is Beautiful” takes place in Italy, the first part in Arezzo and the second in a concentration camp.
In Benigni’s film the setting and the time doesn’t play a big role because he wants to show a family that is in an extreme situation. Benigni himself says this in an interview: “Und deshalb ist es mir wichtig, noch einmal ganz klar zu sagen, dass ich ganz bewusst ein fiktives Lager zeige, mich weder mit einem Namen noch sonst wie konkret auf ein KZ in Italien, Deutschland oder Polen beziehe.” Guido and Giosuè are in a train to a nameless concentration camp and the main theme is that he will do whatever is necessary and possible to protect what is most dear to him, his wife and his son.
Anna and her family live a life as displaced persons because of the escape in another countries. They were forced to leave Germany otherwise they would have been killed. Leaving Berlin forces them to give up their house and it is now in the hands of Hitler himself as well as Anna’s beloved pink rabbit. They also have to leave their housekeeper Heimpi behind and the separation from Heimpi is at the beginning of their life as refugees not easy for Anna and Max. The escape from Germany caused a lot of troubles. Anna and Max lost their friends and also their toys. In Switzerland, in France as well as in England they have to settle in their new life as refugees from Hitler. In France they live in a small flat and they have to learn what it is like to be poor. Another problem for Anna’s family is the fact of having to make new friends every time they move. But one of the central problems when being in another country is the need of learning a foreign language and getting to know other cultures. First of all Anna and Max have difficulties in adapting in school in Switzerland. The biggest problem in France is the language. First, they have difficulties in learning French but then they manage to learn it. Not knowing the language is a bit like not having an identity any more. But they manage to handle with all these problems when living a life in exile and at the end they are looking forward to living in England because they are optimistic and Anna now enjoys her new life as a refugee: “Some things had been difficult, but it had always been interesting and often funny [...]”.
 Gertrud Mander, „Kerr, (Anne-) Judith“Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers, ed. Tracy Chevalier, 3rd ed. (Chicago and London: St. James Press, 1989) 522.
 Roberto Benigni and Vincenzo Cerami, Das Leben ist schön (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998) 195.
 Stone, Alan A.: Escape From Auschwitz: ‘Life Is Beautiful‘ Turned the Holocaust Into a Sentimental Fable, http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/p000440.html [10.08.2006]
 Judith Kerr, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2002) 82.
 ibid., 6.
 ibid., 6.
 Benigni, Cerami 197.
 Kerr 240.
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