Monday, April 14, 2014

Staff Review: 50 Children by Steven Pressman

We are all aware of what happened during World War II and how Hitler wanted to eradicate the entire Jewish population from the world, or at least from Europe.  However, did you know that before things got really serious that the Nazi party were allowing the Jewish people to leave Germany?  To find out more, pick up and read 50 Children written by Steven Pressman.  His wife is the grandchild of Gil and Eleanor Kraus, the focus of this book and the 2013 HBO documentary 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus.

Gil Kraus has discovered that Jewish parents in Germany and Austria can legally send their children to America if there are relatives or sponsors that will care for the children until their parents arrive.  Mr. Kraus enlists his Jewish friends and political connections that will make this happen.  He wants to bring 50 unaccompanied children to America.  If he is successful, it will be the largest set of Jewish children to be brought over together at the same time. It is a long, legal process that Mrs. Kraus works through to ensure all of the proper procedures are occurring, although nothing is official.

Deemed too dangerous for Mrs. Kraus to travel to Germany, Mr. Kraus and his associate cross the ocean by boat to meet with all of the individuals to approve the travel of these children.  Mr. Kraus works very diligently to make sure that everything is completed legally, and so the visas that will be used by the children fit the requirements of America’s very rigid immigration laws.  There are hoops to jump through, interviews to be conducted, and dealing with government officials in every phase, so Mrs. Kraus joins her husband in Europe and leaves their own children behind.

It is extremely difficult to pick just 50 Jewish children out of the 1.5 million that are trying to save their lives.  Once the 50 are decided, still nothing is official that they can leave.  The children are strong in that they will be able to survive and be successful in America away from their parents, but it is the parents that are the strongest.  They are willingly sending their children to a new country while their own future remains unknown.

If you enjoy history, especially from this time period, 50 Children is the perfect choice.  It provides a personal tale of a Jewish couple from Philadelphia and their willingness to help others when so many would not.  This was a difficult time for all, and there are difficult parts to read, but the happy times make it all worthwhile.  Drawn from Mrs. Kraus’ unpublished memoir, rare documents, family photos, and interviews tell the story of “One ordinary American couple’s extraordinary journey into the heart of Nazi Germany.”  It will be published on April 28th to coincide with the Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

~Andrea, Circulation

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