Thursday, April 24, 2014

50 CHILDREN: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany (STEVEN PRESSMAN)

Harper Collins Publishers|April 11, 2014|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-06-2237-47-7

The astonishing and inspiring true story of the 1939 rescue mission of fifty Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Austria to America - the single largest group of children allowed into the United States during that period - told for the first time in book form.

Two ordinary Americans.

Fifty innocent lives.

One unforgettable journey.

In early 1939, few Americans were thinking about the storm clouds gathering in Europe. Nor did they have much sympathy for the growing number of Jewish families that were increasingly threatened and brutalized by Adolf Hitler's troopers in Germany and Austria. Public opinion polls revealed overwhelming support for America's rigid immigration laws, which made it virtually impossible for European Jews to seek safe haven in this country. Neither President Franklin Roosevelt nor Congress was interested in coming to their aid. In fact, anti-semitism was so rampant throughout the United States that even Jewish community leaders were reluctant to support widescale refugee rescue efforts for fear of fueling an even greater backlash.

Despite all of these challenges, a Jewish couple from Philadelphia decided that something had to be done.

In 1939, Gilbert Kraus was a successful 42-year-old lawyer in Philadelphia, whose business and social life revolved around the city's well-heeled German-Jewish community. Gilbert's wife, Eleanor, was a 36-year-old beauty with a penchant for stylish cocktail dresses and fashionable feathered hats.

The dramatic events that unfolded next in their lives provide the rich narrative of a never-before-told story of personal courage and triumphant heroism. It is a story of two ordinary individuals who, at a critical moment in history, rose above themselves to become extraordinary heroes, traveling to Nazi-controlled Vienna and Berlin in Spring 1939 to save fifty Jewish children from an unimaginable fate.

Shockingly, fewer than 1,200 unaccompanied children were allowed into the United States throughout the entire Holocaust, in which 1.5 million children perished. The fifty children saved by the Krauses turned out to be the single largest group of children brought to America.

50 Children grew out of a one-hour documentary of the same name that Steven Pressman wrote, directed, and produced about the Krauses, which aried on HBO in April 2013. The film and the book are based on extensive research including interviews conducted with nearly a dozen of the surviving children and members of the friends and family, as well as Eleanor Kraus's unpublished memoir.
The story description is so well-written that I don't really have anything else to add to the above except to say that I read this book in record time. It amazes me the generosity, compassion, strength, and courage some people have for others. Gil and Eleanor took up this endeavour under great potential harm to themselves but that didn't matter to them whatsoever. There is a lot to learn for all of us in the pages of this book which I highly recommend for everyone.

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