Remember Curious George, the lovable little monkey from the children’s book series? This cute and spunky monkey, created by a husband-and-wife duo, often found himself in precarious situations – mostly because of his overactive sense of curiosity – yet he always emerged victorious.

The backstory about Curious George, the fictional children’s character, is even more harrowing and nail-biting than any of the cheeky monkey’s exploits. It involves a pair of homemade bikes, a creative team, and a daring escape from the Nazis.

Hans Reversbach and Margarete Waldstein

Hans Reversbach and Margarete Waldstein, the creators of Curious George, were both born in Hamburg, Germany, to Jewish parents. Hans and his family lived near the Hagenbeck Zoo. An artist even from a young age, he often visited the zoo to draw the animals.

Source: AP/Jack Young

Margarete, who was eight years younger than Hans, had an outgoing, gregarious personality. The Reversbach and Waldstein families were acquainted with each other. But since he was so much older, Hans paid little attention to Margarete until she was older.

World Travelers

After serving in the German Army in World War I, Hans Reversbach put his animal drawing skills to work for him and earned his living by creating circus posters. He moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1920.

Source: Booknormblog

Margarete Waldstein took a job as a photographer in Germany. In the early 1930s, just as Hitler was gaining power in Germany, Margarete left for London where she lived for a few years. She moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1935 where she found a familiar face … Hans Reversbach.

Hans and Margarete Get Married

Reacquainted in Brazil, Hans and Margarete fell in love and are married. They even become Brazilian citizens. They combined their talents and opened their own ad agency. The business was successful, but their customers struggled with their hard-to-pronounce German names.

Source: Youtube/Fil Gelabert

In an effort to simplify their names, the couple agreed to shorten their last name from Reversbach to Rey. Hans started using his initials, H.A., and Margarete began spelling her name “Margret.”

The Reys Had a Fondness for Monkeys

Although they loved all animals, Hans and Margarete had a particular love for monkeys. The couple honeymooned in Europe, bringing their two beloved marmoset monkeys along with them.

Source: Live Science

The weather in Europe is quite different from that of Brazil. Margarete knitted each of the little monkeys warm sweaters to keep them from getting chilled. Sadly, neither monkey survived the trip, but their deaths had more to do with the stress of travel than the air temperature.

The Reys Moved to Paris

Hans and Margarete eventually moved to Paris. There, the couple wrote and illustrated children’s books based on Hans’s drawings. In 1939, they published Raffy and the 9 Monkeys. As they began to brainstorm their next project, they decided to focus on one main character – a monkey, of course. They called this project The Adventures of Fifi.

Source: Lithub

The couple decided to make their monkey character bold and inquisitive … the type of character that children would fall in love with. Hans and Margarete began developing the storyline for this character. To create drama, they wanted the fearless monkey to encounter sticky situations, but to always find a way to wiggle out of them.

World War II Turned Their World Upside Down

In 1939, Hans and Margret Rey signed a deal with a publishing company in France to publish The Adventures of Fifi. The publisher even planned to publish additional books to create a series of Fifi children’s books. But the couple weren’t able to capitalize on this breakthrough because war had broken out and was spreading across Europe.

Source: Ushmm

Hans and Margret paused their Fifi project and held onto the cash advance given to them by the publishing company. They anxiously followed the news and were well aware of the imminent threat of Hitler and his Nazi Army. As Jews, Hans and Margarete knew they were in danger.

The Nazis Invade Paris

In May 1940, Germany’s Nazi Army seized Paris. Hans and Margarete realized that their Brazilian citizenship wouldn’t save them from being captured by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camps. Their only hope was to make their way out of Paris and try to return to Brazil.

Source: Timesofisrael

Hans used odd parts he found to build two homemade bicycles. Margarete packed a few clothes and their Fifi manuscript and sketches, along with the cash advance from the publisher, and the couple peddled their way from Paris to Portugal. From there, they were able to secure passage to the safety of Brazil.

Fifi Becomes Curious George

After a year in Brazil, Hans and Margarete set sail for a new life in New York City. Once again, they carried their precious Fifi manuscript with them. In America, they presented their children’s book to another potential publisher. Although he loved the storyline and the drawings, the publisher had one concern. The name of the character.

Source: Cbc

The monkey character was a boy, so the publisher was confused by the feminine-sounding Fifi name. He also suggested the Reys use a name that sounded more American. Hans and Margarete settled on George … more specifically, Curious George. Their first Curious George book was such a hit with youngsters that they went on to write and illustrate seven more books in the series.

A Beloved Children’s Character

In addition to the books authored by H.A. and Margret Rey, there have been several other Curious George books to hit the market. Curious George has been made into comic books, TV shows, cartoons, games, and movies.

Source: Lithub

In all his exploits, Curious George has a knack for escaping his sticky situations and coming out on top. In many ways, this represents the story of the character’s creators, Hans and Margarete Reversbach and their daring escape from the Nazis during World War II.