Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: 50 Children by Steven Pressman

50 Children by Steven Pressman

Gil and Eleanor Kraus and their two children enjoyed the good life, thanks to Gil’s work as a Philadelphia lawyer. When he came home one January evening in 1939 and announced he was invited to become part of an effort by a Jewish fraternal organization to rescue children from Nazi Germany, his wife was dismayed, to say the least. They were Jewish. Who would want to travel to Germany when Jews were doing their best to escape from there? But Gil was undeterred and cautiously moved forward.

50 Children recounts the countless setbacks and rejections for assistance from government officials and from friends and associates. But by persevering Gil found people and ways to support his mission and maneuvered his way through immigration limitations by acquiring unused visas for the children. Eleanor herself joined in the effort and secured 50 families as sponsors for children, should their mission succeed. And it did. The couple rescued from Nazi-controlled Vienna and brought to America the single largest group of unaccompanied children just before World War 2 began. There is no doubt they saved children’s lives.

Gil and Eleanor Kraus were maternal grandparents to author Steve Pressman’s wife, Liz. She had kept her grandmother’s typed manuscript describing the rescue, which formed the basis for this book. 50 Children includes a photo section as well as a synopsis of the lives of many of the children. It also includes an Afterword, Notes and an Index. An interesting read and an important one that inspires us to do what we can when faced with unthinkable and unacceptable circumstances.

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