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

Steven Pressman, Author
Steven Pressman. HarperCollins, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-223747-7
Reviewed on: 02/03/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Book - 978-0-06-233183-0
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-223749-1
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-223748-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4830-0353-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-4830-0354-2
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In this stirring account of determination against overwhelming odds, journalist Pressman (Outrageous Betrayal) expands on his eponymous HBO documentary wherein his wife’s grandparents, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, worked to rescue 50 Viennese Jewish children from occupied territory during the early years of WWII. Drawing from interviews, historical documents, and Eleanor’s private writings, Pressman reconstructs the chain of events, adding background and context. His flowing narrative breathes life into the America and Europe of 1938–1939, placing a spotlight on the impossible circumstances and contradictions of Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish pogroms, as Jews were encouraged to leave yet hindered at every turn. He looks at the obstacles thrown up by American attitudes and policies: isolationism, rigid immigration laws and quotas, and rampant anti-Semitism made it unlikely that the Krauses’ plan would ever work: “During the years when it was possible for Jews to leave Germany for the United States, American public opinion, government insensitivity, lack of interest, and a depressing failure of human compassion all worked against them.” In contrast to his praise for the Krauses for spearheading their small but vital rescue effort, Pressman critiques American intransigence alongside more visible Nazi cruelties, and the whole makes for a story as troublingas it is inspirational. Illus. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan. (May)
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