Based on the acclaimed HBO documentary, the astonishing true story of how one American couple transported fifty Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Austria to America in 1939—the single largest group of unaccompanied refugee children allowed into the United States—for readers of In the Garden of Beasts and A Train in Winter.
In early 1939, America's rigid immigration laws made it virtually impossible for European Jews to seek safe haven in the United States. As deep-seated anti-Semitism and isolationism gripped much of the country, neither President Roosevelt nor Congress rallied to their aid.
Yet one brave Jewish couple from Philadelphia refused to silently stand by. Risking their own safety, Gilbert Kraus, a successful lawyer, and his stylish wife, Eleanor, traveled to Nazi-controlled Vienna and Berlin to save fifty Jewish children. Steven Pressman brought the Kraus's rescue mission to life in his acclaimed HBO documentary, 50 Children. In this book, he expands upon the story related in the hour-long film, offering additional historical detail and context to offer a rich, full portrait of this ordinary couple and their extraordinary actions.
Drawing from Eleanor Kraus's unpublished memoir, rare historical documents, and interviews with more than a dozen of the surviving children, and illustrated with period photographs, archival materials, and memorabilia, 50 Children is a remarkable tale of personal courage and triumphant heroism that offers a fresh, unique insight into a critical period of history.
In this stirring account of determination against overwhelming odds, journalist Pressman (Outrageous Betrayal) expands on his eponymous HBO documentary wherein his wife's grandparents, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, worked to rescue 50 Viennese Jewish children from occupied territory during the early years of WWII. Drawing from interviews, historical documents, and Eleanor's private writings, Pressman reconstructs the chain of events, adding background and context. His flowing narrative breathes life into the America and Europe of 1938 1939, placing a spotlight on the impossible circumstances and contradictions of Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish pogroms, as Jews were encouraged to leave yet hindered at every turn. He looks at the obstacles thrown up by American attitudes and policies: isolationism, rigid immigration laws and quotas, and rampant anti-Semitism made it unlikely that the Krauses' plan would ever work: "During the years when it was possible for Jews to leave Germany for the United States, American public opinion, government insensitivity, lack of interest, and a depressing failure of human compassion all worked against them." In contrast to his praise for the Krauses for spearheading their small but vital rescue effort, Pressman critiques American intransigence alongside more visible Nazi cruelties, and the whole makes for a story as troublingas it is inspirational. Illus.
Well worth the time!
This book was difficult to put down. The story of courage and sacrifice overwhelming takes the reader with the story of three rescuers adided by selfish others who save 50 children from certain death. Pressman writes a narrative so accurately and with such emotion as to cause the reader to feel ashamed for the history of people who failed “to do something to help!” Money and time well spent in the reading of this literature. A must read for every politcal science majorand diplomatic corp staff member!
A Chilling Story with Modern Parallels
This was an excellently authored book with a riveting story. It was well connected historically and enough to common knowledge to prevent alienation to the common reader.
The parallels to issues faced in today's society, though not discussed outright, are present and demand the readers attention.
I highly recommend this thought provoking, historical masterpiece.