With a careful eye to detail and dialogue, Pressman vividly re-creates this epic rescue.




The astonishing story of a Philadelphia couple’s resolve to help bring Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Austria.

Journalist Pressman (Outrageous Betrayal: The Real Story of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile, 1993) is the grandson-in-law of Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus, whose bravery during a dark time is only now coming to light. The Philadelphia lawyer and his wife, both nonreligious Jews from well-to-do families, agreed to help engineer the transfer of Austrian Jewish children to America on behalf of a national Jewish fraternal organization, Brith Sholom, which was deeply concerned about the increasing prosecution of Jews in Germany and Austria. In 1939, the Jews were still being allowed out—that is, if they had the money and connections to emigrate; after “Aryanization,” or the seizure of their wealth and goods, few had the means. By late 1938, the murderous intentions of Nazi warnings—“Jews! Abandon all hope. There is only one possibility for you: Emigrate—if someone will accept you”—were made abundantly clear, yet Jews were trapped. The Krauses were warned against venturing to Germany at this time: A prominent Quaker contingent had recently been rebuffed by the Nazis; the U.S. and other nations had tightened restrictions on immigration; and even various Jewish groups and charities tried to convince the couple of the folly and danger of the rescue plan. “One would think we were trying to do something illegal or wicked, even degrading,” Eleanor remembered. After securing affidavits from 50 sponsors, completing the vast paperwork and achieving clearance from the State Department, Gil finally left in April 1939 and summoned Eleanor to come shortly after. Making their way through Nazi Germany to Vienna, the couple observed chilling details of the nation’s militarization and oppression of the Jews. The details around selection of the children, leave-taking of their parents and the tearful travels are heart-rending, but eventually, they were safely shepherded to a summer camp in Collegeville, Pa.

With a careful eye to detail and dialogue, Pressman vividly re-creates this epic rescue.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-223747-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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