50 CHILDREN by Steven Pressman

50 CHILDREN

One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany

KIRKUS REVIEW

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 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-223747-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2014




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