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

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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 ma 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 Drawing from Eleanor Kraus's unpublished memoir, rare historical documents, and interviews with more than a dozen of the surviving children, and illustrated with period photographs, archival materials, and memorabilia, 50 Children is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.


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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 ma 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.

30 review for 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Extraordinary and true story about how Gil and Eleanor Kraus saved fifty Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust. I watched the HBO documentary after I read this and, though similar and emotionally powerful, I enjoyed the book more because it provides a detailed history for each child (that Pressman was able to locate). My only complaint about the book is that, though the story is gripping, it moves very slowly. My book club had a fascinating and educational discussion about 50 Children and, all Extraordinary and true story about how Gil and Eleanor Kraus saved fifty Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust. I watched the HBO documentary after I read this and, though similar and emotionally powerful, I enjoyed the book more because it provides a detailed history for each child (that Pressman was able to locate). My only complaint about the book is that, though the story is gripping, it moves very slowly. My book club had a fascinating and educational discussion about 50 Children and, all said, I am very glad that it was the final club pick of 2016. Did you know about this episode from US history?: "The fifty boys and girls whose lives were saved by Gil and Eleanor Kraus comprised the largest single known group of children, traveling without their parents, who were legally admitted into the United States during the Holocaust." pg 9, ebook. I didn't realize that in the late 1930's, that Jewish people were allowed, and even violently encouraged, to leave the Third Reich. The trouble was that, like other large displaced populations more recently, no country on earth was prepared to let that many people in or provide the social services required. Fortunately, Gil Kraus was a well-connected lawyer who was willing and able to work within existing immigration and labor laws to find a way to bring the children into the US. I knew that the situation was awful for Jewish people in Europe before and during World War II, but, until I read this book, I didn't realize the complete hopelessness that was experienced even before concentration camps became the 'final solution': "Within the first ten days of the Anschluss, the Viennese police reported nearly one hundred suicides throughout the city, virtually all of them Jews. By the end of April, the number of suicides had jumped to at least two thousand. Among the victims was Henny Wenkart's pediatrician, who took his life by jumping out a window." pg 42, ebook. The American diplomats in Austria and Berlin had a front row seat to the horrors that the Jewish population were experiencing, but their hands were tied by national policy and immigration caps. George Messersmith and Raymond Geist helped the Krauses as much as they could, within the law: "The Jews in Germany are being condemned to death. Their sentence will be slowly carried out, but probably too fast for the world to save them," Geist (US foreign service officer in the Third Reich) wrote in a private letter to Messersmith (State Department secretary, stationed in Washington D.C.) in December 1938, less than a month after Kristallnacht." pg 61, ebook. Why was the American publication so anti-immigration?: "The United States still bore the scars of the Great Depression, and restricting immigration was seen as a way to protect jobs for Americans, who for years had been plagued with staggering unemployment rates. But challenging economic considerations were not the only factors at play in the immigration debate. The American public simply was not moved by the dire situation in Europe." pg 68, ebook. And, antisemitism was far more prevalent than it is today. All of these things made it difficult if not impossible for the Jewish people who were trying to escape the Nazis. Even after the Krauses were able to get the children to the United States, they faced harsh criticism from other Jewish charity groups for their actions. I was absolutely blown away by that. You'd think that people would have banded together and said, "Look what's possible!", but instead, they fractured and accused the Krauses of breaking immigration laws. "Was it envy that prompted others to criticize what had clearly been a stunningly unique and successful rescue? Whatever their motivation, some of these same people now wondered if they might simply duplicate Gil's strategy. pg 201, ebook. But, since this was the largest group to get out, clearly the others didn't succeed. At book club, we talked about how the 1939 situation is similar to what the world is facing today with the Syrian refugee crisis and, though we all thought that immigration policy needs to be re-examined, that the real tragedy is that the world still hasn't found a way to respond to the wars and conflicts that cause such displacement in the first place. Is humanity ever going to figure out a way to either co-exist peacefully or provide sanctuary for those displaced by the fighting? I don't know, but it's a question that we should think about. Recommended for anyone interested in the Holocaust, immigration, or testimonies from World War II- as uplifting as it is unsettling, 50 Children is a timeless lesson for everyone about the evils that happen when those able to help choose not to or look away.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I learned so much from this book. I think it is the first book I have read that clearly and succinctly explained America's view on the fate of the Jews at the beginning and during the Holocaust. What was known and when. Quite frankly I was appalled, so much more could have been done. So little actually was, and I had no idea of the stigma and prejudice that the Jews faced here in America. Of course there are as always a few good people that made a difference, not all Jewish, and these few attemp I learned so much from this book. I think it is the first book I have read that clearly and succinctly explained America's view on the fate of the Jews at the beginning and during the Holocaust. What was known and when. Quite frankly I was appalled, so much more could have been done. So little actually was, and I had no idea of the stigma and prejudice that the Jews faced here in America. Of course there are as always a few good people that made a difference, not all Jewish, and these few attempted to do as much good within the law as they could. Gilbert and Eleanor Krauss were a well to do Jewish couple that managed with some help to bring 50 children from Austria, to America. Wonderful people that risked much to travel to Berlin and Austria during Hitler's rise to power. There is humor, as when the children arrived in America and are confronted with food they had never seen before, such as jello. Their are poignant and heartfelt moments, sadness of course. The Kraus's were amazing people, and I am glad that the author updated their lives afterward, although they had to deal with a tragedy of their own. He also updates the reader with the lives of the other good people who were involved and lastly the lives of the children that could find, now elderly themselves. All in all an amazing book showing, at least for me, another side of the Holocaust. At the end of the boo, Paul Shapiro who is the Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies writes, "What each person does can make a world of difference," If only more people had felt that way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    Apologies to those who have been waiting for my review of this book. I’m not up for writing a thorough review, but I hope my impressions are useful to you, especially regarding deciding whether or not this book is for you. I found the account gripping and suspenseful, even though the reader knows from the very start pretty much what is going to happen. From previous reading, I knew most of what was going on during the period and yet the details told still managed to shock me at times – great examp Apologies to those who have been waiting for my review of this book. I’m not up for writing a thorough review, but I hope my impressions are useful to you, especially regarding deciding whether or not this book is for you. I found the account gripping and suspenseful, even though the reader knows from the very start pretty much what is going to happen. From previous reading, I knew most of what was going on during the period and yet the details told still managed to shock me at times – great examples including excerpts from the NY Times, State Dept. memos, and the memories of those involved with this rescue. I get more and more angry at the U.S. the more I learn. I get so exasperated with human beings. Luckily, this story is mostly about the bravery, heroism, and empathy expressed by some very good people. I was particularly grateful for the details given of what happened with everyone, and surprised that there were so many children that couldn’t be currently tracked re what happened to them. I hope they or their significant others see the plea at the end of the book, and come forward with information. I had to smile because so many of the personalities/behaviors of certain children left me not at all surprised by the adults they became. I was very touched to read about some of their post rescue lives and accomplishments. There is an exceptionally fine and informative Afterword by Paul A. Shapiro of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum There is no gorgeous language but it is a well written straightforward account. The photos of the children, others involved, documents, the times & places of the era were so important to me, especially the family portraits of the children and their families. The last year I’ve had a reading dry spell, but this book was easy for me to read, and very enjoyable. (view spoiler)[ I was very surprised that so many of the parents and siblings got out and how so many of them also got out before the worst of the Holocaust, in 1939 and 1940. The relatively few exceptions were so heartbreaking, more so because of how many were able to escape the worst of the Holocaust. (hide spoiler)]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I did not like this book, but not because of the subject matter. I thought it was written in a very "matter of fact" manner with out any emotion. I would like to read more about rescued children, but from a different author. I did not like this book, but not because of the subject matter. I thought it was written in a very "matter of fact" manner with out any emotion. I would like to read more about rescued children, but from a different author.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    This was a wonderfully powerful story about the courage and bravery of a few Jewish American people who put themselves in harm's way in order to rescue fifty Jewish children, Their story and the determination they showed was astounding. Gil and Eleanor Krauss did what all should have done to help the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Most disturbing of all, besides the utter inhumanity of the Nazis, was the behavior of our own government. Following the "limits" of immigration and a very strong This was a wonderfully powerful story about the courage and bravery of a few Jewish American people who put themselves in harm's way in order to rescue fifty Jewish children, Their story and the determination they showed was astounding. Gil and Eleanor Krauss did what all should have done to help the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Most disturbing of all, besides the utter inhumanity of the Nazis, was the behavior of our own government. Following the "limits" of immigration and a very strong anti Semitic sentiment, our government as well as FDR chose to be blind and ignore the plight of the Jewish people. I must say the fact that we in the US only saved 1,000, including the fifty children in this book was both sad and definitely an eye opener. Being taught in school that we really didn't know about the treatment of the Jews is and was a lie. Even some Jewish American organizations seemed to be afraid to upset the balance, and were often critical of the Krauss's. All in all this was a truly enlightening book that revealed what it is like to be a true hero, a person who gives little thought for themselves and just does what is noble and right. I applaud these people and those who helped them and only wish our own government had had the same courage, humanity, and compassion that this couple and others showed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    One of the most controversial aspects of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews during World War II is whether the United States could have been done more to rescue the eventual victims of this genocide. Historians have pointed to the lack of sympathy for the plight of Jews or the outright anti-Semitism in the State Department, the immigration quotas that existed going back to the 1924 legislation, and the political approach that the Roosevelt administration took towards the problem as it did not w One of the most controversial aspects of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews during World War II is whether the United States could have been done more to rescue the eventual victims of this genocide. Historians have pointed to the lack of sympathy for the plight of Jews or the outright anti-Semitism in the State Department, the immigration quotas that existed going back to the 1924 legislation, and the political approach that the Roosevelt administration took towards the problem as it did not want to upset certain segments of the American electorate. While all of these road blocks to save European Jewry existed many did find a way to assist in saving Jewish lives and were able to maneuver and overcome the numerous obstacles that were placed in their path. Two individuals, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, whose story is told in Steven Pressman’s new book, 50 CHILDREN, took upon themselves the challenge of confronting Nazi persecution in Germany and Austria in 1939 and were able to succeed where others failed in obtaining fifty exit visas to allow fifty children to escape their plight and come to the United States in May, 1939. The book is based on the writings of Eleanor Kraus, interviews with those involved who are still alive, and a degree of historical research. The story that is told is a remarkable one and should be praised as such. However, as a historical monograph, much could have been added. Since the book goes hand in hand with the excellent HBO documentary, 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, which aired in April, 2013, it should be seen as an addendum to the program. The story itself is a sobering one. Pressman provides general details of events in Europe that affected their Jewish populations and integrates them into his narrative. The most important would be the union of Germany and Austria, or Anschluss that took place in March, 1938, and Krystallnacht, the night of the broken glass that occurred in November of the same year. These two events reflect that there was no future for European Jewry. The Nuremberg Blood Laws that existed in Germany since 1935 were now applicable to Austria and after the pogrom of November, 1938 took place Herman Goering fined the Jewish community 400 million marks for the damage the Nazi thugs were responsible for. Pressman’s description of these events are accurate, but he could have gone into greater detail and analysis in applying their repercussions as Gil Kraus developed and implemented his plan to save Jewish children. After a discussion with Louis Levine, the head of the national Jewish fraternal organization called Brith Sholom, Kraus, a successful Philadelphia lawyer developed his plan to rescue fifty Viennese Jewish children in response to the events of 1938. Pressman tells the story of how Kraus enlisted his wife Eleanor to take care of the massive bureaucratic paper work involved, and Robert Schless, a Philadelphia pediatrician, to accompany him to Vienna to carry out his plan. What stands out a part from the Nazi persecution of Jews was the obstacles that Kraus and his cohorts had to overcome. American immigration policy became the back bone of the opposition to allowing Jews to immigrate to the United States. That policy was enforced by the State Department, particularly by certain officials such as Breckinridge Long, an Assistant Secretary of State, who sent a secret internal memo to members of the Foreign Service “to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices, which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of visa.” (136) Long’s instructions were followed carefully as we see the obstacles that were placed in front of the Kraus’. From nitpicking affidavits, raising financial issues, outright lies and denials, many in the State Department did their best to make sure that the Kraus’ mission to Austria failed. If it were not for the cooperation of George Messersmith, another Assistant Secretary of State who had served in Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power, and Raymond Geist, a Foreign Service officer serving in Berlin during the Kraus’ visit in 1939, the Kraus mission would have failed. Pressman correctly points out that Messersmith and Geist, though sympathetic to the cause of saving the children covered themselves by manipulating documents to reflect their implementation of immigration policies. Pressman citations of his sources are rather scant in this section of the narrative. He seems to rely on one book, Henry Feingold’s THE POLITICS OF RESCUE, written in 1970 for much of his background information. I would have suggested to the author that he consult David Wyman’s THE ABANDONMENT OF THE JEWS, 1933-1939, Richard Breitman and Alan Lichtman’s FDR AND THE JEWS, and Erik Larson’s IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS for a deeper and more recent understanding of State Department policy during that period. Pressman does a wonderful job describing how the children were chosen. The interviews that the Kraus’ conducted with the children and their families was heartwarming. The transcript of these conversations was important for the reader to witness to gain insights into what parents were going through by sending their children to a foreign country, not knowing if they would ever see them again. Another area that Pressman should be commended for was his discussion of the opposition from within the Jewish community for what the Kraus’ hoped to achieve. This subject touches a nerve as many historians have noted throughout the Holocaust that different factions within the American Jewish community worked at cross purposes to the detriment of the victims of Hitler’s death camps. Pressman also spends a great deal of time exploring the social and political climate in the United States during the Depression. He discusses the hostile environment as people feared an influx of Jews at a time when jobs were at a premium. He goes on to explore the depths of isolationist feeling that dated back to World War I, in addition to the undercurrent of anti-Semitism that scared American Jews who did not want to rock the boat by overtly supporting Jewish immigration. When the author sticks to the plight of the children and the plan to save them he is at his best. However, at times he strays from the story to bring in what appears to be a more human interest component. Constant references to Eleanor Kraus’ feelings, wardrobe, and vignettes about her experiences detract from the overall narrative as do other examples. The historical narrative of the Kraus mission and the obstacles they overcame are more than enough to carry the story, anything that detracts from it should not have made their way into the book. Pressman concludes the narrative by tracing the lives of 37 out of the 50 children that were saved and what became of them and their families. Overall, the book is well written and presents an unimaginable and heroic adventure that saved many lives and told a story that needs to be retold over and over so we will not forget the lessons of the Holocaust. For the general audience the book will prove to be a quick and satisfactory read, but for those who would like more insight and documentation I think the book is somewhat lacking.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Gil Kraus was a prominent and well respected attorney living in Philadelphia in early 1939. Gil’s grandparents had immigrated from Germany to the United States in the mid 1800’s. They had worked hard and had been successful in business in their new homeland. Gil, like his father, was a well regarded member of Brith Sholom, a national Jewish fraternal organization. He had been involved in many of their philanthropic activities. In early 1939, one of the organization’s officers approached Gil with Gil Kraus was a prominent and well respected attorney living in Philadelphia in early 1939. Gil’s grandparents had immigrated from Germany to the United States in the mid 1800’s. They had worked hard and had been successful in business in their new homeland. Gil, like his father, was a well regarded member of Brith Sholom, a national Jewish fraternal organization. He had been involved in many of their philanthropic activities. In early 1939, one of the organization’s officers approached Gil with a proposition. The organization owned a large summer camp outside of Philadelphia that was currently not being used. They hoped that Gil would consider taking the responsibility for attempting to bring Jewish children living under the increasingly dangerous Nazi regime in Germany to safety in the United States. The task would be formidable. In fact, he was told, it could even be life threatening. Other groups, both Jewish and non Jewish, had not been very successful in these attempts. American anti-semitism and stringent immigration laws posed a threat to any rescue attempts. Without hesitation, Gil accepted the task. This is a remarkable true story about the rescue of fifty children from Nazi controlled Vienna by an ordinary American couple. The difficulties they faced were daunting and nearly insurmountable, yet they persevered. They are living proof that courageous individuals can stand up and make a difference when they see injustice. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, the author, Steven Pressman, mentions that “before writing this book, I had the privilege of making a documentary film titled 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, which premiered on HBO on Holocaust Remembrance Day in April 2013”. I haven’t seen the documentary, but I’m sure it is just as interesting as the book!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This book is a very interesting read. Every since reading Anne Frank's diary as a teenager, I have been interested in reading about the Holocaust. Especially from individual people who lived through this horrific time in history. Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus became hero's when in the late 1930s knew they had to do something to help the Jewish children. In 1939 the went to Europe to save 50 Jewish Children and bring them back to the USA. When they arrived after months of red tape and other hurdles. This book is a very interesting read. Every since reading Anne Frank's diary as a teenager, I have been interested in reading about the Holocaust. Especially from individual people who lived through this horrific time in history. Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus became hero's when in the late 1930s knew they had to do something to help the Jewish children. In 1939 the went to Europe to save 50 Jewish Children and bring them back to the USA. When they arrived after months of red tape and other hurdles. The Kraus's were sent to Vienna Austria. There they interviewed over 150 families desperate to get the children to The USA and to safety. The Kraus's now had the heartbreaking job to pick which 50 children they would take home with them.this was no easy task. they faced more red tape, obtaining of Visa's and making it through dangerous check points. the children were finally on a ship headed to the USA. they were first taken to a "camp" { more like a summer camp{ where they stayed in a dorm type house. over the summer the kraus's and other volunteers helped to find foster homes for the fifty children. the very last few pages traced "what became of 37 of the children" and their parents. This was a good informative read. it is sad to read how few immigrants the USA took in during the Holocaust seeking safety here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book is especially compelling because the rescuers were Americans, a couple from Philadelphia who saw what was happening and did what they could to save 50 children from the Holocaust (and thus saved 50 entire worlds). The suspense surrounding the rescue is interesting, but the main points to ponder are these: (1) These rescuers were Americans, whereas most were Europeans--and why were there not many more American rescuers? It was obvious to anyone who could read a newspaper, especially aft This book is especially compelling because the rescuers were Americans, a couple from Philadelphia who saw what was happening and did what they could to save 50 children from the Holocaust (and thus saved 50 entire worlds). The suspense surrounding the rescue is interesting, but the main points to ponder are these: (1) These rescuers were Americans, whereas most were Europeans--and why were there not many more American rescuers? It was obvious to anyone who could read a newspaper, especially after Kristallnacht, that Jews in the Third Reich were being treated with great inhumanity and desperately needed and wanted help to escape. Where was that help? (2) Why, oh why, was the U.S. State Department and the rest of the government so determined, not just to enforce draconian immigration laws even in the face of urgent need, but to drag their feet and bar the way at every possible opportunity for those acting within the laws? Yes, America was just coming out of the Great Depression, jobs were scarce, and all the problems were "over there," but one great problem was "over here," and that was widespread, shocking anti-Semitism. There is no way to explain or justify the world's lack of humanity in this regard, and when you overlay American and supposedly Christian "values," the result is deeply sickening. This book is well written, although it lacks the excitement of some rescue tales, but the modest efforts of the Krauses and their resonating success make this a great and thought-provoking read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gail Strickland

    Truly amazing how little the "immigration" debate has changed from the 1930's to the present. Just change the ethnicity of whatever group some Americans want to keep outside our borders and this book is almost like reading about the city in CA that blocked buses filled with children. I don't really want to get into the immigration debate since my opinions on it would set some of my relatives hair on fire, but this is a well-researched book about at least trying to do the right thing. It also help Truly amazing how little the "immigration" debate has changed from the 1930's to the present. Just change the ethnicity of whatever group some Americans want to keep outside our borders and this book is almost like reading about the city in CA that blocked buses filled with children. I don't really want to get into the immigration debate since my opinions on it would set some of my relatives hair on fire, but this is a well-researched book about at least trying to do the right thing. It also helps that one of the participants left behind a written narrative about the struggle.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ann Woodbury Moore

    This is a fascinating, true story of a well-to-do American Jewish couple, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, who work together with a doctor and a fraternal group named Brith Sholom to bring 50 Jewish children from Vienna, Austria to the U.S. in the months preceding the break-out of World War II. While Great Britain admitted 10,000 Jewish children to their country as part of the "Kindertransport" effort, only 1,000 or so came to America, and the Kraus group was the largest. Pressman--who also made a doc This is a fascinating, true story of a well-to-do American Jewish couple, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, who work together with a doctor and a fraternal group named Brith Sholom to bring 50 Jewish children from Vienna, Austria to the U.S. in the months preceding the break-out of World War II. While Great Britain admitted 10,000 Jewish children to their country as part of the "Kindertransport" effort, only 1,000 or so came to America, and the Kraus group was the largest. Pressman--who also made a documentary movie about this topic--alternates between the Krauses efforts in the U.S., the children and their families in Vienna, and the virulent anti-Semitism and anti-immigration attitudes of many in Congress and the U.S. State Department. It's quite clear that the often-repeated idea that Americans would have done more if they had known more is false; Pressman quotes liberally from major American newspapers about the events occurring in Europe during the 1930s, and unfortunately the issues that confronted the Krauses and their friends have not changed that much in the last 80 years except for location.

  12. 4 out of 5

    carlita_is_probably_reading

    I'm at a loss for words at what more people (countries, organizations, etc...) could have done if they not had turned a "blind eye" before it was too late. I am experiencing a lost for words right now in that aspect. We need more "Mr. Krauses" in the world today. I'm at a loss for words at what more people (countries, organizations, etc...) could have done if they not had turned a "blind eye" before it was too late. I am experiencing a lost for words right now in that aspect. We need more "Mr. Krauses" in the world today.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    In 1939, as the Nazi power machine began to roll over Europe, a Jewish-American couple from Pennsylvania, Gil and Eleanor Kraus, traveled to Austria where they successfully rescued 50 Jewish children and brought them to America. This book is based on an unpublished memoir written by Eleanor and on hundreds of interviews with surviving children, politicians and on many archived documents. Although they were American citizens, it was still a dangerous undertaking for the Krauses placing themselves In 1939, as the Nazi power machine began to roll over Europe, a Jewish-American couple from Pennsylvania, Gil and Eleanor Kraus, traveled to Austria where they successfully rescued 50 Jewish children and brought them to America. This book is based on an unpublished memoir written by Eleanor and on hundreds of interviews with surviving children, politicians and on many archived documents. Although they were American citizens, it was still a dangerous undertaking for the Krauses placing themselves in the middle of Nazi occupied Austria. Choosing 50 children from the hundreds presented by desperate parents must have been such a heartbreaking thing to do, as it was nearly certain those left behind would likely not survive. Political red tape and rampant anti-Semitism in the US nearly derailed the entire undertaking but a few compassionate politicians and embassy officials made sure the Krauses journey was not in vain. The first section of the book, the planning stage, was so dry that I nearly gave up; countless names of politicians and their opinions became mind-numbing. The second section, the rescue, was so well done that I felt like I was right there along side Gil and Eleanor. The third section, the life after, was rewarding with the children's stories, many of whom, surprisingly, did end up being reunited with their families in America. I did not know there was an HBO special about this rescue so I will be sure to see if it is still available.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I must start by saying when I selected this book I did not know it was non-fiction. My expectations were for something more along the lines of a Philippa Gregory, a fictitious portrayal of real people and a real story. Even with this misconception I enjoyed this book. I also did not know that there was a film covering the same topic and have plans to watch it in the near future. WWII has always fascinated me. Why did this happen, what possessed Hitler, how come more people didn't fight back. The I must start by saying when I selected this book I did not know it was non-fiction. My expectations were for something more along the lines of a Philippa Gregory, a fictitious portrayal of real people and a real story. Even with this misconception I enjoyed this book. I also did not know that there was a film covering the same topic and have plans to watch it in the near future. WWII has always fascinated me. Why did this happen, what possessed Hitler, how come more people didn't fight back. The story of 50 Children answered some of these questions for me. I was glued to the book when Steven started covering American Immigrations laws of the time. He laid out, in a not so positive light on America, why Jews couldn't just leave Nazi controlled areas. The policy of quotas per country and that everyone must be self sufficient (no monetary aid needed). It was interesting to learn about this portion of American history. The book is broken down into three sections, 1) The Plan, 2) The Rescue, and 3) New Lives. Each section is tightly written with loads of information and a smattering (I could have used more) of insight into who Gil and Eleanor Kraus were. Some of the insight into who Eleanor Kraus was made her look extremely shallow. Perhaps more so than intended because of the heavy nature of the book. Like many non-fiction books there are a plethora of names, all of which I couldn't grasp onto and keep in my mind through the duration of the book. However, those that were most important I was able to follow. On this topic there were also some characters that were thrown in and not used, Dr. Robert Schless went with Gil to Vienna but he is hardly ever mentioned at all. And then there is Hedy Neufeld who aids the Kraus' and is only briefly covered. The book closes by highlighting a number of the children and how they lived their lives after coming to America. For those interested in WWII and intrigued by rescue stories and the brave men and women behind them then this is a must read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gina Marie ~books are my drug of choice~

    I read this book several months ago and it still reverberates in me. The couple who made this rescue happen performed a near miraculous feat. All the pieces that fell into place to allow this to happen continued the miracle. This couple treated what they did as just what was necessary. At a time when the USA was refusing visas to Jews from Austria and Germany. They were able to save 50 children. At the same time they had many they had to turn away and that hurt is also demonstrated. Think about I read this book several months ago and it still reverberates in me. The couple who made this rescue happen performed a near miraculous feat. All the pieces that fell into place to allow this to happen continued the miracle. This couple treated what they did as just what was necessary. At a time when the USA was refusing visas to Jews from Austria and Germany. They were able to save 50 children. At the same time they had many they had to turn away and that hurt is also demonstrated. Think about it, what strength of character and belief in doing what was right would lead a Jewish couple to go through Austria and Nazi Germany to save children. They had patrons for that number of children, families for many and they met with dozens of families. They knew they were asking the parents to give up their children when they would probably never see those children again. This book is a well written book based on the wife's unpublished memoir. Her emotions and feelings shine through the prose in many places. I would recommend this book to anyone having an interest in that time and place in history. The writing is easily read and is appropriate for teen and adults. I would recommend this book to everyone. I've already taken it out of the library a second time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    This was an incredible story and pretty good narrative nonfiction. I must admit that I'm still in a bit of a reading slump though, so take my lack of extreme enthusiasm with a grain of salt! My main take away from this story was that many Americans knew the life-or-death danger facing Jews in Germany pre-WWII. Most Americans still opposed letting Jewish immigrants enter the country. Many Jewish Americans feared that pushing too hard in favor of immigration would turn other Americans against them This was an incredible story and pretty good narrative nonfiction. I must admit that I'm still in a bit of a reading slump though, so take my lack of extreme enthusiasm with a grain of salt! My main take away from this story was that many Americans knew the life-or-death danger facing Jews in Germany pre-WWII. Most Americans still opposed letting Jewish immigrants enter the country. Many Jewish Americans feared that pushing too hard in favor of immigration would turn other Americans against them. Against this backdrop, it's even more incredible that a normal, relatively well-off Jewish American couple risked their own lives to rescue Jewish children from Nazi Germany. They had so much to lose. The author of this story did a great job letting events speak for themselves. The risks Gil and Eleanor Kraus took and their stubborn insistence on doing the right thing were awe-inspiring. The number of German Jews who helped get others out of Germany only to later lose their own lives was heartbreaking. The story managed to hit these big emotional moments without the writing become melodramatic. The story was told very simply, which made it all the more moving. I was also impressed by how well the author described the many children the Kraus's rescued. Not all 50 children were introduced, but many were. At first, I thought this was sure to be confusing. Actually, the author struck a great balance. We learned enough about many of the children that I remembered them throughout the book. A few other children were described only as part of brief, moving set pieces which highlighted the stakes of this rescue. Despite these strengths, this didn't strike me as a truly special read. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. Again, this might be because I'm in a bit of a slump. I did like it and I'd recommend if it sounds at appealing, but it's probably not a book I'll revisit.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    3.5 stars, rounding up. It is a really interesting story of how a wealthy Jewish couple in Philadelphia found a way to work within immigration law to select and transport 50 Jewish children from Vienna. All the details of the paperwork get a little dry and sometimes I felt like the couple came across a little privileged and spoiled but overall, I learned a lot. I think the biggest takeaway from it was that although I had read about the difficulty the Jewish people had escaping prior to the World 3.5 stars, rounding up. It is a really interesting story of how a wealthy Jewish couple in Philadelphia found a way to work within immigration law to select and transport 50 Jewish children from Vienna. All the details of the paperwork get a little dry and sometimes I felt like the couple came across a little privileged and spoiled but overall, I learned a lot. I think the biggest takeaway from it was that although I had read about the difficulty the Jewish people had escaping prior to the World War II fully erupting, I didn't realize that 1) they also had nowhere to go and 2) the United States was as anti-immigration then as it is now (although it kind of makes sense after the economic and employment woes recovering from the Depression). I was also kind of surprised at how much the American government and people clearly knew what was going on in Europe and that Jews were being persecuted and killed; I think I just always have had a vague understanding that no one really knew until after the war. But this was just an ordinary couple who chose to get involved after being disturbed at what was clearly printed in the newspaper. In hindsight, knowing how many millions of people were killed during the Holocaust, it is frustrating that our country didn't do more, and it makes me wonder if we'll look back on current world events in 50 years and feel the same regrets.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    A wonderful account of a couple and the others that brought 50 children to the United States during the Nazi regime. I can not imagine the strength and despair it would take to send your child(ren) across the ocean with strangers to save their lives. I found myself crying throughout this book. This book is also a reminder on how racism and fear continues to influence people's opinions on refugees and immigration. Makes you think. 3.5-4 stars. A wonderful account of a couple and the others that brought 50 children to the United States during the Nazi regime. I can not imagine the strength and despair it would take to send your child(ren) across the ocean with strangers to save their lives. I found myself crying throughout this book. This book is also a reminder on how racism and fear continues to influence people's opinions on refugees and immigration. Makes you think. 3.5-4 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    I learned so much about not only the early years of Hitler’s occupation in Austria, but the complete hopelessness the Jewish people had who lived in Vienna. I appreciated - despite how upsetting the information was - that the author included the indifference and outright opposition to rescuing Jewish children from Nazi Europe by the American government, public, and even Jewish leaders. The fact that the author is married to the subjects’s granddaughter provided a unique and informed insight. The I learned so much about not only the early years of Hitler’s occupation in Austria, but the complete hopelessness the Jewish people had who lived in Vienna. I appreciated - despite how upsetting the information was - that the author included the indifference and outright opposition to rescuing Jewish children from Nazi Europe by the American government, public, and even Jewish leaders. The fact that the author is married to the subjects’s granddaughter provided a unique and informed insight. The only drawback was sometimes an over abundance of information not necessarily needed in the overall narrative.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. 50 Children tells the story of an ordinary American couple who, outraged by the events taking place in Europe in 1939, set out to make a difference. Gilbert and Eleanor Krauss managed to safely bring 50 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Austria to America. Remarkably, although this represents the single largest group of unaccompanied refugee children allowed into the United States, little was known about this story until now. I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. 50 Children tells the story of an ordinary American couple who, outraged by the events taking place in Europe in 1939, set out to make a difference. Gilbert and Eleanor Krauss managed to safely bring 50 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Austria to America. Remarkably, although this represents the single largest group of unaccompanied refugee children allowed into the United States, little was known about this story until now. The author had access to Eleanor's personal account of the story since Eleanor and Gilbert are Pressman's wife's maternal grandparents. After determining to help in some way, Gil discovered in analyzing visa documentation that "the number of visas appeared to exceed the final number of immigrants" actually entering the United States (54). This made no sense, especially in light of the thousands of Jews desperately trying to leave Nazi-occupied countries only to be thwarted by the heavily regulated immigration system in other countries. In other words, although the Nazis were encouraging the Jews to leave, there was no where for them to go. The difference in the number of visas and the number of immigrants was explained by those who had applied to the wait list and later found passage to another country, leaving their visa to the United States unused. Gil sought to use these leftover visas to bring children to America. The first half of this book dealt largely with the Krauses navigating the complicated paperwork that would allow them to have permission to legally bring the children into the country. This section was relatively slow. Additionally, it seems as if the author had a hard time integrating the children's backgrounds into the story and only gives one disjointed chapter where several of the children's family backgrounds are quickly summarized; it's difficult to get personal simply because of the sheer number of children whose lives were affected by the Krauses mission. It's obvious how desperate the Austrian parents were if they were willing to send their children away with complete strangers to a foreign land, with the chance that they would never be reunited. Or as Eleanor said, "to take a child from its mother seemed to be the lowest thing a human being could do. Yet it was as if we had drawn up in a lifeboat in a most turbulent sea" (145). The Krauss couple interviewed hundreds of children and made what must have been agonizing decisions about which children would be coming to America. Each parent was anxious that their child would be selected. For example, one mother told her daughter, "If you leave, your life will be saved, and then I will have a better chance of saving my own life" (119). Gil and Eleanor were literally selecting those who would survive. I was particularly moved to read that one child, five-year-old Heinrich Stenberger, who had been selected for the trip later had to be replaced after he fell ill. Tragically, Heinrich "was murdered at the Sobibor death camp three years later" (253). I was a little disturbed by how much luxury figured into this story. Eleanor and Gil traveled in style and spent time sight seeing and vacationing while abroad to retrieve the children. On the ship home, the children stayed in third class while Eleanor and Gil stayed in first class. On the other hand, I can hardly judge them for this, especially when considering that they are one of only a few Americans who made any attempt to assist Jews in Europe. "In the United States, the most common myth, embraced to explain America's failure to act more compassionately toward refugees and more forcefully in the face of mass murder, is that we did not know what Nazi Germany, her allies and collaborators, were doing. [...] What distinguished [the Krauses] from others is simply that they chose not to close their eyes to what they were reading" (256). They risked their lives to help a large group of children. In fact, while Great Britain took in 10,000 children, the United States took in only about 1,000 - meaning the the Krauses were personally responsible for 1 of every twenty of those children that made it to the United States (258). Most of the children were placed with relatives or foster families until they were able to be reunited with their parents. Most lived the rest of their lives in the United States. It was amazing to see the accomplishments of many of them, including Henny Wenkart who holds a master's degree from Columbia and a doctorate from Harvard (248). However, Pressman was only able to account for 37 of the children; I'd love to know the fate of the rest of the group.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    Such a tragic period of time and an almost unbelievable read. You will learn of an American Jewish couple who decide to help save Jewish children from horrible living conditions in Germany during the years Hitler was in charge. Could they do it with all the roadblocks thrown before them? An interesting read and a well-worth read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    These quotes tell it all . . . “How can one know the moment when the night has ended and dawn has come? . . . The moment when you know that the night has turned to day is when you see the face of a stranger and recognize him as your brother.” “Night and Day. . . . Failure or Compassion. . . . Impotence or Courage. . . . Death or Life. . . . These were the alternatives of the Holocaust. The choices people made in that frightening era made a difference, and it was often the difference between life These quotes tell it all . . . “How can one know the moment when the night has ended and dawn has come? . . . The moment when you know that the night has turned to day is when you see the face of a stranger and recognize him as your brother.” “Night and Day. . . . Failure or Compassion. . . . Impotence or Courage. . . . Death or Life. . . . These were the alternatives of the Holocaust. The choices people made in that frightening era made a difference, and it was often the difference between life and death.” “Despite the obstacles and unfavorable odds, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus chose compassion and courage, and saved the lives of fifty children in mortal danger.” “Their story brought light to a darkened landscape, sheds light on what is possible, and serves as a powerful reminder that the noblest of human potentials lives on in each and every human being. What each person does can make a world of difference.” “50 Children challenges the most self-comforting and widespread myth of all. The assertion that ‘there was nothing we could do’ transcends all borders and languages.” “The Kraus rescue mission makes it crystal clear that there were things that America could have done to alleviate the suffering of Europe’s Jews. What the United States could not do was overcome the prejudices of the day to do what was possible.” “In the United States, the most common myth, embraced to explain America’s failure to act more compassionately toward refugees and more forcefully in the face of mass murder, is that we did not know what Nazi Germany, her allies and collaborators, were doing. But the Krauses were not intelligence agents privy to classified information. They were reading the newspapers after Kristallnacht and learning of the brutality with which Jews were being treated in Vienna and across Germany. What distinguished them from others is simply that they chose not to close their eyes to what they were reading. In 1938–1939 information regarding Germany’s treatment of Jews was publicly available to all Americans. Recent research and the opening of formerly classified American wartime archival documentation have also made it clear how much information American policymakers had regarding the mass killing of Jews that began after the outbreak of war in September 1939.” “Between 1933 and 1945, the United States admitted between 1,000 and 1,200 unaccompanied Jewish children—children traveling without their parents—into the country. The fifty children rescued by Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus accounted for the largest known single group to be admitted into America during the entirety of the Holocaust.” “And while the United States opened its doors to 200,000 European refugees—mostly Jews—during Hitler’s murderous reign, the sad fact remains that hundreds of thousands of additional lives lost in the ashes of the Holocaust might well have been saved had America been more generous. Among the victims of the Nazis’ Final Solution were one and a half million children.” “We—I and Mama—could not restrain our tears of joy, picturing your young group being photographed with the Statue of Liberty,” Hermann Roth wrote to his son Kurt less than two weeks after the children had arrived in the United States. “For the first time in my life, tears of joy. God has granted you such fortune, and granted us, the parents, to partake in it.” “Some of the older kids were certainly conscious of the fact that we had escaped Nazi Germany, where things weren’t so good for Jews,” said Kurt Herman. “And we knew that we were going on an adventure to a new country where we would have all these rights and freedoms. But we also understood, at least most of us did, that it was possible that we would not see our parents again.”

  23. 5 out of 5

    April

    50 Children got off to a great start - we learn the conversation that lead to the ultimate rescue of 50 children from Nazi Germany and Vienna. However, after that brief glimpse of that conversation we then move into very slow territory. We are shifted around almost haphazardly from story to story - small snippets out of the lives of the Jews living in Germany and Vienna, and we don't even get enough of their story to remember their names, although each of their small stories of being harassed an 50 Children got off to a great start - we learn the conversation that lead to the ultimate rescue of 50 children from Nazi Germany and Vienna. However, after that brief glimpse of that conversation we then move into very slow territory. We are shifted around almost haphazardly from story to story - small snippets out of the lives of the Jews living in Germany and Vienna, and we don't even get enough of their story to remember their names, although each of their small stories of being harassed and worse by the Nazi's is heartbreaking and memorable, it felt kind of like a camera at a party and it's being jostled around from one guest to the next and we don't get to see the full picture. I had trouble getting into it until nearly 40-50 pages into the story. Before we start getting to what I considered the "meat" of the story - the actual tale of the Kraus' attempt to rescue the children and all they had to go through, the obstacles they had to overcome here and then abroad, didn't even begin until we learned a little too much (in my opinion) of the family and who was related to whom, etc. Not that that isn't good information but it was just SO much to take in and even try to remember and keep straight in my mind. Once we're finally on our way with the story of the Kraus' deciding to attempt this untenable plan, that everyone was against and were constantly dissuaded from undertaking, the story become almost unputdownable, especially once Gil and his compatriots reached Europe. It was great to see pictures throughout the book - to really illustrate the point of what the average Jew had to witness and suffer through, even in some small measure. Seeing every shop and restaurant, movie theater and opera house closed to them. Public parks out of their reach and not even allowed to sit on certain street benches. It is not easy to imagine, it is easy to picture in your mind but it's not easy to understand what that would feel like on a visceral level. Seeing the pictures of the graffiti all over with the words "Jews Forbidden" (in German of course) makes it more real. I say that because even though I *know* beyond a doubt the Holocaust was real.. it just seems so incomprehensible, it's hard to imagine this happened in the 20th century, that we could still have such barbarians in our society. Since it's no spoiler to say that obviously the mission was successful, it was fun to hear the stories of the children's experiences once they were on the boat to America and once they had landed. Reading of their experience of eating Jello-o with bananas in it made me laugh - the children thought that the "red stuff" was a preservative to keep the bananas from spoiling, so none of them wanted to eat it, they scraped it away from the banana slices, and then one child tried it and told them all it was delicious. At the end of the book there is a list of most of the children (the ones they could find) and it told their stories after they landed in America and up until the present period. So we did learn about the kids in a meaningful way, there stories of growing up and living lives of prosperity and happiness with families of their own, warmed my heart. This is a unique book for those who are interested in the Holocaust because this is the single biggest rescue of Jews into America during this period. There were so many obstacles and it gives you hope for even the most difficult tasks are possible if you persevere and do all you can within the framework you have to work with, for the good of others. It's a testament to the goodwill, kindness and the power of average people to do good things even in the darkest times.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Today’s nonfiction post is on 50 Children: One Ordinary’s American Couple’s Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman. It is 304 pages long including notes, bibliography, and a list of illustrations. It is published by HarperCollins. The cover has a picture of some of the children when they first see the statue of liberty. There is no language, no sex, and violence is only talked about in this book. The story is told from journals and interviews with the chil Today’s nonfiction post is on 50 Children: One Ordinary’s American Couple’s Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman. It is 304 pages long including notes, bibliography, and a list of illustrations. It is published by HarperCollins. The cover has a picture of some of the children when they first see the statue of liberty. There is no language, no sex, and violence is only talked about in this book. The story is told from journals and interviews with the children and from the adult involved. The intended reader is someone who wants to read this very enlightening and uplifting story about a daring rescue against all the odds. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- In early 1939, America’s rigid immigration laws made it virtually impossible for European Jews to find 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 stand by silently. 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 provide 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 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. Review- This was a moving and inspiring story about the bravery of a few people against the callous and cruel regime. Parts of this story are of course very disturbing and tragic but I think that this is a story of hope really. Hope that the individual can do something like safe innocent children from madness. The Kraus’s just wanted to do the right thing. They were not looking for public praise or fame. They wanted to help. The odds that the Kraus’s had to overcome to get to Germany for the very small chance that they could save some children were not in their favor. The Kraus’s then had to decide which of the thousands of children who needed to be saved. The Kraus’s had help from unexpected places and places where there should have been help there was none. But they never gave up. The Kraus’s never once stopped trying. I highly recommend this very moving book about helping where you can no matter the odds. I give this book a Five out Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given this book for free in return for an honest review by Harper Collins.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terri Lynn

    This is a book that made me cry, feel happiness and delight, and then cry again. This true book of heroism describes the mountain of problems Jewish American lawyer Gilbert Kraus and his wife Eleanor Kraus faced when trying to bring 50 Jewish children from Austria (which Hitler had made part of Germany) in 1939. Their problems did not come from the Nazis who were delighted to help get rid of Jews. Even as a Jewish couple traveling in Germany/Austria along with their Jewish pediatrician and an Au This is a book that made me cry, feel happiness and delight, and then cry again. This true book of heroism describes the mountain of problems Jewish American lawyer Gilbert Kraus and his wife Eleanor Kraus faced when trying to bring 50 Jewish children from Austria (which Hitler had made part of Germany) in 1939. Their problems did not come from the Nazis who were delighted to help get rid of Jews. Even as a Jewish couple traveling in Germany/Austria along with their Jewish pediatrician and an Austrian/German female assistant (who later married the good doctor and moved to the USA), encountering Brown Coats and No Jews Allowed signs, they went unharmed. The biggest problems came from an anti-Semitic USA where the government refused to really help. FDR (the same creep of a president who locked up Japanese American citizens in concentration camps during WWII and who authorized the terroristic acts of dropping nuclear weapons on innocent babies, children, housewives, the elderly and the handicapped during WWII in civilian cities) refused to allow Jews to be saved due to anti-Semitic feelings of his own and of the people in the USA because he thought it might harm him politically though he did want to let in tens of thousands of British Christian kids. That is the heartbreak- Christian ministers using the most vile terms about these Jewish kids and even the president doing the same. We have a lot of ugliness in our country's history. Millions of Jewish kids died at Nazi hands but not the 50 this courageous and moral couple saved with the help of the organization they belonged to. Read this book to meet them, their doctor friend, his eventual wife, other kind people who tried to help both in the USA and in Austria/Germany, and to meet these precious children. So many people would have given up but they didn't. I love the photo section and also the followup on what happened to everyone including most of the kids for the rest of their lives. Everyone should read this. It will change you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bob H

    It's an extraordinary story, not least because it was on the initiative of one Jewish couple, Gil and Eleanor Kraus, who left a comfortable Philadelphia home to rescue 50 children from Nazi-held Vienna. To do so, they had to navigate US immigration barriers -- somehow he found 50 open visa slots under a stiff quota -- and then, in Berlin and Vienna, work through red tape at the Gestapo and in US diplomatic offices. This couple were themselves Jewish, and thus had to endure a considerable sense o It's an extraordinary story, not least because it was on the initiative of one Jewish couple, Gil and Eleanor Kraus, who left a comfortable Philadelphia home to rescue 50 children from Nazi-held Vienna. To do so, they had to navigate US immigration barriers -- somehow he found 50 open visa slots under a stiff quota -- and then, in Berlin and Vienna, work through red tape at the Gestapo and in US diplomatic offices. This couple were themselves Jewish, and thus had to endure a considerable sense of menace during complex and delicate negotiations and interviews with the authorities, the children's parents, and the children themselves, of whom only 50 could go. The story, drawn from contemporary accounts and Eleanor Kraus' private memoir, is vivid enough, and the prose is fast-moving and concise, never dull. Indeed, even though the reader knows the outcome -- the book cover makes it obvious enough -- the story still raises doubt as to whether this quest will come off or not. And some of the twists are unexpected: for instance, the couple faced considerable opposition from the US State Department, which was enforcing immigration barriers raised by a xenophobic Congress, and even some opposition from the Jewish community in the US, who didn't want to risk trouble. We also learn that, while the German Jewish community had gone through gradually-escalating cruelty over the years, the Austrian Jewish community was hit with it all at once, when Germany seized Austria in 1938. The couple even has an unexpected encounter with Ribbentrop, the Nazi foreign minister. In all, a taut, intriguing, and ultimately inspiring story of what one couple could do despite opposition and obstruction, and it's a fresh account of the Holocaust period. Highest recommendation.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    As others have said, this is the first book I've read that outright called bullshit on the what Americans have come to believe was our country's reason for ignoring the plight of German, Austrian, and European Jews before World War II was declared: that we didn't know how bad it was, that there was nothing we could do, and that our government had no idea what was happening. In this book, we have the story of an ordinary (albeit wealthy) American Jewish couple who read about what was happening in As others have said, this is the first book I've read that outright called bullshit on the what Americans have come to believe was our country's reason for ignoring the plight of German, Austrian, and European Jews before World War II was declared: that we didn't know how bad it was, that there was nothing we could do, and that our government had no idea what was happening. In this book, we have the story of an ordinary (albeit wealthy) American Jewish couple who read about what was happening in Europe and decided to do something about it. Within six months, they had successfully gotten the support of friends, government officials, and allies in Europe to bring 50 Jewish children to America. Anyone who read a newspaper in the late 1930s were well-aware of what was happening. And polls of that time show that anti-Semitism was alive in the US. Government documents show that officials were aware of the plight of the Jews and were predicting what would eventually become the Final Solution. Yet no one did anything except Eleanor and Gil Klaus. From immigration law makers being unwilling to make exceptions fearing the wrath of a xenophobic public (even though they welcomed thousands of British orphans a year later), the American public unwilling to allow Jews into the country, and many of their friends and colleagues telling them to reconsider, the Klauses had the cards stacked against them. And yet, they succeeded. This is their story told in a straight-forward, journalistic manner. The Afterword (not by the author) gets into a more persuasive essay on the US's shaping of it's "not guilty" persona, but the majority of the book is told in a way to allow the reader to realize how any well-off US citizen could have made a stand and could have saved a life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    This is an interesting book for what it isn't: It's not a gripping Schindler's List kind of tale. There are no midnight escapes. No close calls. Instead, the villains (aside from the Nazi's) are bureaucrats and apathy. And the heroes are most definitely ordinary. Their success hinged on finding and exploiting a loophole in the Byzantine immigration rules of the 1930s. Neither spouse was actively engaged in getting Jews out of Germany in advance of WW II. They were just your typical civic-minded This is an interesting book for what it isn't: It's not a gripping Schindler's List kind of tale. There are no midnight escapes. No close calls. Instead, the villains (aside from the Nazi's) are bureaucrats and apathy. And the heroes are most definitely ordinary. Their success hinged on finding and exploiting a loophole in the Byzantine immigration rules of the 1930s. Neither spouse was actively engaged in getting Jews out of Germany in advance of WW II. They were just your typical civic-minded upper middle class couple. Their success involved no pleas to prominent politicians. Instead, they found this loophole, and exploited it with help from some mid-level embassy officials. Take the time to ponder the reaction of some Jewish groups involved in attempting the same thing. And don't get too distracted by the odd moments. Not certain about the decision to include details about the couple's romantic weekend in Paris in the midst of their efforts. And it definitely did not dive into the details of why they chose the children they did. Since it is partly based on the wife's memoirs it is possible she chose not to record what were surely some painful choices. In the end, though, it is a celebration of the everyday hero -- the person who takes a risk and comes away having completed an epic mitzvah. The Krauses' story certainly deserves to be read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    In 1939, a Philadelphia lawyer, Gil Kraus, traveled to Europe with the intention of returning to America with fifty Jewish children. His wife, Eleanor, soon followed. Together they succeeded in rescuing fifty children from the escalating violence and persecution of Jews. Originally, they believed the children would be German. As fate would have it, German-occupied Vienna would provide the children for transport. While the book celebrates this courageous, amazingly heroic act, the story behind t In 1939, a Philadelphia lawyer, Gil Kraus, traveled to Europe with the intention of returning to America with fifty Jewish children. His wife, Eleanor, soon followed. Together they succeeded in rescuing fifty children from the escalating violence and persecution of Jews. Originally, they believed the children would be German. As fate would have it, German-occupied Vienna would provide the children for transport. While the book celebrates this courageous, amazingly heroic act, the story behind the actual trip is phenomenal, too. There was endless paperwork and approvals needed both before and during the rescue mission. United States' immigration laws. quotas, anti-Semitic sentiment, and more, are meticulously explained here. Danger surrounded them in Europe, while efforts back in the U.S. were not always in their favor, either. I was surprised and embarrassed to learn about our government's participation, and lack thereof, in the rescue and safety of Jews both before and during WWII. This is a must-read to all who are interested in the stories of the 30's and 40's. I love that this book is a mix of historical fact and personal memoir ; a mix of faith and persistence. To Gil and Eleanor Kraus, and to Louis Levine, and all those who helped them, you have my admiration.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    A few months before World War II started in 1939, Gilbert and Eleanor Krause, a young affluent couple from Philadelphia, rescued 50 Jewish children from Nazi-held Vienna. They brought them safely to the United States, but not without a lot of courage and perseverance. The U.S. State Department was one of their biggest obstacles. They had to find sponsors to cover the expenses of the children while they were in the United States. Worst of all, each of these families had to undergo private financi A few months before World War II started in 1939, Gilbert and Eleanor Krause, a young affluent couple from Philadelphia, rescued 50 Jewish children from Nazi-held Vienna. They brought them safely to the United States, but not without a lot of courage and perseverance. The U.S. State Department was one of their biggest obstacles. They had to find sponsors to cover the expenses of the children while they were in the United States. Worst of all, each of these families had to undergo private financial disclosure that most people would prefer not to disclose. The climate of anit-Semitism, anti-immigration did not help their cause. They were fortunate to be get the children out while the Nazis were willing to let the Jews leave. I didn’t realize that this story was told in a HBO documentary before Pressman wrote the book. At the end of the book he gives us a listing of the 37 children he was able to track down and what became of them. He is still looking for the remaining 13 children. “50 Children” is a well told story, historically documented and captivating. The quotation from the Talmud aptly sums up what the Krauses accomplished. "Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he has saved the entire world."

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