When the Nazi party was gaining popularity in Germany, Hans Augusto Rey, a Jewish salesman, knew it was a good time to get out. He moved to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. There, he met and married an old flame, Margret, who’d also come to escape the Nazis. Together, the couple moved to Paris in 1935.
When World War II broke out, the Reys realized they needed to make other plans. They left Paris a few hours before the Nazis invaded, riding a pair of bikes that Hans had made himself. To their backs they strapped some food, some of their possessions, and the manuscript of a children’s book the couple had been working on–a book about a mischievous monkey named George.
The rest is history: The Reys made it across the Swiss border and eventually to New York, where they published Curious George, and would eventually enjoyed worldwide success. The Reys’ story is told more fully in the nonfiction book The Journey that Saved Curious George. Meanwhile, the George book itself, and its sequels, have been translated into dozens of languages–including the Reys’ native Yiddish, where the monkey’s affectionately known as “George der Naygeriker.”