As a summer student in a firm in London, I had attended a hearing in the Court of Appeal. After the hearing, the barrister told me that I most likely knew one of the judges, Sir Michael Kerr – not in person, but from one of my children’s books, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. And he was right. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr, Sir Michael’s sister, is the autobiographical story of the Kerr family’s emigration from Nazi Germany to Switzerland, France and eventually England. Their father, Alfred Kerr, war a famous journalist and writer, and amongst those whose books were burnt in May 1933.
The boy from my children’s book was now a Lord Justice of Appeal. When I saw his autobiography on the shelfs of Hammick’s Legal Book Store on Fleet Street, many years later, I had to buy it. Sir Michael’s autobiography tells the story of that extraordinary Anglo-German life, from refugee to the first foreign-born High Court judge “… since the time when some Norman judges were brought over from France in the reign of Henry II.” (p. 239) . It is moving in many respects, despite the lawerly, matter-of-factly language in which it is written, in particular when Sir Michael speaks about his parents, and his father’s death, in Hamburg, in 1948 (pp. 204 et seq.).
At the same time, it is an intimate inside view of the English bar and bench, in what Sir Michael called “The second half” both of this book (Chapter 59 to 72) and his life: “The rest is mostly about the law. (…) In a way it is also about a different person – the more commonplace story of an English barrister and judge, the arbitrator …” (p. 239).
The annex includes a reprint of “Arbitration v. Litigation: The Macao Sardine Case”, first published in (1987) 3 Arbitration International 79, testament to Sir Michael’s third career as an international arbitrator. Sir Michael was president of the British-German Jurists Association from 1986 to 1991. His book has been reviewed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.