HBO Documentary Film: 50 CHILDREN: THE RESCUE MISSION OF MR. & MRS. KRAUS

By Jef Dinsmore on Apr 9, 2013 to Documentaries

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Overview: 50 CHILDREN: THE RESCUE MISSION OF MR. AND MRS. KRAUS tells the dramatic, previously untold story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, a Jewish couple from Philadelphia who followed their conscience, traveling to Nazi-controlled Vienna in spring 1939 to save a group of children. Amidst the impending horrors of the Holocaust, they put themselves in harm’s way to bring what would 50Children posterbecome the single largest-known group of children allowed into the U.S. during that time.

What got this story to be told by filmmaker Steven Pressman was his relationship with the Kraus’s granddaughter Liz Perle. She is his wife and he uses her on camera to help tell the tale of this daring rescue. The Kraus’s adventure is chronicled by Eleanor’s own hand via a journal she wrote.

Expectations:  Out of the annuals of heroism and intrigue about WWII comes many a story.  And this story of the 50 children out of Vienna, Austria and their liberators has gone untold until 2010 when it was put to film. The script for this story was that journal and it is this premise that sets up, for me, an interesting film.

Clearly, I expect the Kraus family to define for us what kind of couple Gilbert & Eleanor were and how they gained support for their cause as well as give us step-by-step instructions on how they carried it out. The press release for this documentary states that some of the then children survive today to add their perspective. I think that should be a nice touch.  50Children kraus

Review: 50 CHILDREN: was surprisingly refreshing as documentaries go. That is not the intent of the piece I am sure but, that is what I felt at first. It was refreshing due to the style of documentary it was. As of late, all of HBO’s documentary films have been films told through the eyes of the camera, first person style. This film takes on the Ken Burns style of filming. It uses archival footage and still photography to play out the times. It also employs Alan Alda as narrator and, in a nice turn, Mamie Gummer as the voice of Eleanor Kraus reading from the journal.

What surprised me about the piece was not so much the dangerous climate in Austria, but the atmosphere in the U. S. A. towards even wanting to share in the Kraus’s goal of bringing the children to safety. They pulled strings and made allies to get visas for the selected children and that process seemed as though it was harder to do than getting the children out of Nazi territory. What was of interest as well was as quickly as the idea popped into Gilbert’s head after the plan was carried out it went just as quickly out of his head and he and his Mrs. continued with their lives as if it never happened.

The mix of archival media and the words of Alda and Gummer make for a nice story in the end. Also, as hoped, the now adult children add warmth to the story that this bold rescue was not in vain. I50children photot is a good sixty-four minutes of your time.

In Conclusion: Steven Pressman worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and archives in Israel to find old footage and photos of the Kraus’s, and of rarely shown street scenes from Nazi Germany and Austria. It was also through the Museum he was able to track down some of the surviving children now in their 70’s and 80’s. The film premiered on HBO on 04.08 – Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Other HBO air dates include 04.11 at 12:30am; 04.12 at 4:30pm; 04.15 at 11:30am; 04 18 at 12:30pm; 04.20 at 2:30pm and 04.28 at 11:30am. You can also find it on HBO2 and HBOGo.

 


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  • ARNWRKRSrule .

    Proud of my great grandfather’s leaving Germany long before the country fell into mass delusion… American…

  • Jesse

    Today I had the pleasure of meeting the son of Helga Milberg. It was a fascinating story to hear through her son’s perspective. At just 9 she was forced to leave her parents to come to the states. I would recommend anyone to watch this film.

  • Meemola

    My mother-in-law was one of the 50 Children. She was the youngest. Her parents survived and came to reclaim her several months after her arrival in the US. She was so traumatized by the whole experience that she did not remember them. She pretty much lost the memories of the whole experience. All she remembers is living in a nice loving home with brothers. Then her parents took her (after a legal court battle) to a tenement in Brooklyn. Its always been an interesting story with lots of holes. Its been wonderful to have some of the gaps filled in.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    A number of people have been asking about this Documentary – Alas I cannnot find any releae date for a DVD through the remainder of 2013.

    If you subcribe to HBO you can always watch it again on HBOGo. It airs on HBO Latino on 11.11 at 8:50am. It airs (in English) again on 12.13. at 9:50am on HBO2 (East) or 12:50pm on HBO2 (West).

    I also just found a website –

    http://www.50childrenfilm.com/www.50childrenfilm.com/The_Film.html

  • lisa lipschutz

    I just caught the tail end of this film on HBO and as I was watching it, I realized that it was the story of my family. My four cousins, the Linhards were among the children saved by Mr. and Mrs. Kraus. I knew that the Linhards were taken from Vienna on a ship and that Dr.Schless ( who later became my pediatrician) was with them but I didn’t know the involvement of the Kraus’s. For some reason that story was never related to us. I also know that one of the Linhard children died on the ship during the crossing. I was never told how she died. I would appreciate any additional information and the opportunity to watch the documentary in it’s entirety.

  • Farah

    Will this be available as a DVD for purchase?

  • Evelyn

    When will 50 Children be available for purchase? Thank you.
    Lorie

  • http://www.facebook.com/eliezer.nussbaum Eliezer Nussbaum

    Amazing documentary and one of the best and original I’ve
    ever seen. The Kraus couple was brave, dignified human beings doing the right
    thing selflessly. These wonderful people risked their own lives to save children
    while others just stood by. The story is sad leaving you sobbing.

    It is also another account of FDR poor record when it came to
    saving Jewish lives.FDR, the president during that era, simply did not care.

    Eli Nussbaum

  • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

    This was one of the most heartwarming yet difficult films I’ve ever watched. I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine giving my children to strangers,and hoping for the best. Truly heart wrenching. So happy to hear from the commenters personally connected to this story. I’d love to hear about the other children as well.

    Great story that needed to be told.

  • David Barlin Marlboro, NJ

    Kurt Singer, one of my dearest friends was one of the rescued children.He passed way several years ago leaving a Wife Loretta & 3 children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shawn.goldstein1 Shawn Goldstein

    This was a wonderful selfless thing that these extra special people did. I wish there had been many more. I am also extremely saddened to learn that FDR did not do more to get more Jews out. Shame.

    • Jef Dinsmore

      That comment points out one reason why I like documentaries. They are always able to open your eyes to a fact or statistic that surprises you. I too was surprised how closed the U.S. was to the situation in Europe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rhonda.aigen Rhonda Aigen

    I wonder also. Did u find out how many parents survived?

    • Jef Dinsmore

      Maybe the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum could shed some light on that answer.
      The narration of the piece did state that ‘some” recconnected with parents and others with relatives and some were adopted.

  • Sid

    My Mother, Inge Braunwasser, whose name was seen listed 2 below, the Heinrich Steinberger, who was exchanged out due to his untimely illness, was one of the 25 girls. Ironically, she married a man from Scranton, named Steinberger and had two children. She was one who was reunited with both her parents, and as one might imagine, she often said, “It was the happiest day of my life.” I am not sure how many had such happy stories can be reported by the other survivors. She died almost 10 years ago, never healing from some of the scars of the Holocaust. Her friend Helga Milberg who was in the movie, did not see her mother again, and unfortunately, Mrs Milberg died last September, but did get to see a screening of the movie.

    • Jef Dinsmore

      Thanks for sharing that Sid. It adds to the epilouge of this documentary.

    • Donna Henson

      Oh, Sid… thank you for sharing that. The older I grow the more
      confused I am by the entire business of the Holocaust… and all the
      cruelties we see on our beautiful planet. I’m so, so grateful to you for giving us this bit of happy information. I shall never, ever understand this business.

  • scott.butler

    I found it interesting that the granddaughter) who was telling the story did NOT consider her grand parents as hero’s. I certainly would consider them hero’s – it was a great thing they did especially after fellow Americans and basically the President of the United States said NO.

    • T.Bonaventure

      I found the granddaughter selfish and lackluster. Who cares if her grandparents stayed in nice hotels and ate in fancy restaurants while they were SAVING 50 JEWISH CHILDREN FROM BEING KILLED IN THE HOLOCAUST… If her grandparents weren’t so “well off” I’m 100% certain that they wouldn’t have been able to do such an amazingly heroic act that landed her (the granddaughter) in a documentary directed by her own husband. Those two were saints, regardless of what their overly critical, disregarding, and disrespectful granddaughter thinks.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=422553 facebook-422553

        What an idiot you are, T. Bonaventure. The granddaughter had humor and humility. I guess you can’t recognize those.

  • mlsf

    It was an amazing thing that they did not only because everyone around them tried to discourage them but mainly because of the danger it presented at that time. Yet they rescued children in danger regardless of the difficulties. We all owe thanks and respect to them – people who can forget their own daily needs for the benefit of others.
    I was wondering how many of the parents actually made it safely out of Austria to join their children.









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