’50 Children’ tells captivating story

Posted April 16, 2013


The made-for-television HBO documentary “50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus” is a previously untold act of heroism that aired for the first time on Holocaust Remembrance Day in early April.

The 60-minute film tells the story of a Philadelphia lawyer, Gilbert Kraus, and his wife Eleanor, whom, at the beginning of the 1930s realized the terrible fate that would bestow upon the Jews in Europe. The wonder lies in their mysterious, yet heroic decision to take it upon themselves to risk their lives in liberating 50 Jewish children from Germany and finding safe homes for them in the United States.

Throughout the film, we see and hear from the children, who, now well into their adult lives, continue to reminisce on their memories as if were just yesterday when they departed on a train from Vienna.

One of them, Henny Wenkart, described the situation by recalling that the problem for Jews living in the Third Reich wasn’t getting out as much as it was finding a country that would admit them, so, this effort by the Krauses was no small task. As we are guided through their journey, we experience the Krauses facing great challenges and opposition from the American government and anti-Semitic groups. However, they were not to be derailed.

The film, created by Steven Pressman and narrated by Mamie Gummer, is in essence a narration from Eleanor Kraus’ unpublished memoir. It details the obstacles she faced and the great courage it took to pursue what they believed was right, despite all that was not in their favor.

Perhaps the most impressive and impactful scenes from the film are expressed through this narration. Her writing retells touching anecdotes and conveys spectacular imagery. In order to obtain visuals, Pressman worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and archives in Israel to find old footage of them and of rarely shown street scenes from Nazi Germany and Austria. Matched with family photographs and artistic re-enactments,, the documentary is truly captivating.

While a lot has been done to document historic accounts of the Holocaust, the ending of these tales is rarely a cause for celebration. However, The Kraus’s story demonstrated enormous courage in the face of danger, and shares a beautiful and uplifting piece of history that had not been told for almost 75 years.

  • HBO Documentary Films
  • Premiered Monday, April 8, 9 p.m. Re-runs vary daily, available daily on-demand
  • 62 minutes
  • History/Documentary
  • Created by Steven Pressman