You probably know Curious George, the beloved little monkey from children’s literature, but, you might not know that in a very real sense, he’s a Holocaust survivor.

A new exhibit, opening Friday at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, tells the remarkable story of his creators. 

Artist H.A. Rey and his writer wife, Margret, were living in Paris when the Nazis occupied France in 1940. As German Jews, the Reys knew that in order to survive they had to get out. So they began a 9-day journey by bicycle to Lisbon, sleeping in barns and begging for help along the way. 

Noreen Brand with the Illinois Holocaust Museum says the Reys left Paris penniless but, among the few possessions they stuffed into their knapsacks, were the drawings and original manuscript that would later become the Curious George series. 

The Reys finally made their way to freedom and settled in New York where they went on to write and illustrate the entire Curious George series. 

Brand says if not for the Reys’ resourcefulness, Curious George would have been lost to children’s literature. The exhibit about the Rey’s remarkable flight opens on Friday and runs through mid-June at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.