Film Recounts Heroic Story Of Couple Who Saved 50 Children

This article was first published in JWeekly.

Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus with the 50 children aboard the SS President Harding, June 1939. (HBO)

Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus with the 50 children aboard the SS President Harding, June 1939. (HBO)

Klara Lee of Atherton still remembers the royal blue coat and hat her mother made for her to wear on her journey to America 74 years ago. She also remembers the hard-to-procure apple her mother gave her for the trip, the one the 8-year-old refused to eat.

“That apple was like a diamond, a gem,” said Lee. “I never took one bite of that apple. I kept it and kept it as a souvenir from a parent I didn’t know if I would ever see again.”

Eventually, the piece of fruit went rotten and Lee had to throw it out and move on with the new life that was thrust upon her when, in the spring of 1939, an American Jewish couple dared to slip into Nazi-controlled Vienna to rescue her and 49 other Jewish children.

The untold story of how Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus of Philadelphia rescued 50 Jewish children, just as the doors to Jewish emigration from Europe were closing, is recounted for the first time in “50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus,” a one-hour documentary premiering on Monday, April 8 on HBO.

Steven Pressman, the film’s San Francisco–based writer and director, learned about this incredible story unknown to Holocaust researchers and museums when his wife, Liz Perle, showed him an unpublished manuscript by her grandmother, Eleanor Kraus.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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