HBO Documentary Tells Story of Kindertransport That Saved 50 Children

Film Reveals Philadelphia Family's Role in Daring Rescue

Mission Accomplished: Gilbert Kraus helped to plan the largest Kindertransport to the U.S.
Courtesy of HBO
Mission Accomplished: Gilbert Kraus helped to plan the largest Kindertransport to the U.S.

By Dorothy Brown

Published March 22, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
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“It was the right thing to do, and her husband wanted her to do it,” Perle said. “It was incredibly selfless in a woman you wouldn’t think of as selfless.”

Through Eleanor Kraus’s pen we learn of the selection process that took place in Vienna after the Jewish community, via the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, put out the word. Hundreds of parents showed up with their children. The Krauses, along with Philadelphia pediatrician Robert Schless, chose 25 boys and 25 girls, ages 4 to 14, who they thought would be resilient enough to survive what might prove a permanent separation.

Through Eleanor Kraus’s eyes we witness the scene on May 22, 1939, at the Vienna train station.

A young mother herself, she learns that a wave goodbye might be misinterpreted as a Nazi salute, forbidden to Jews and subjecting them to arrest. And so, the parents and children are not allowed to wave.

For Pressman, it is the most dramatic moment of the saga, as it was for Eleanor Kraus, who titled her memoir, “Don’t Wave Goodbye.”

Not to give away more details of the film, but there’s high drama in Berlin’s exclusive Hotel Adlon when the Krauses cross paths with top German and Italian military officials who have just signed a pact between the two nations.

And there’s a very poignant moment at the American consulate in Berlin, where each of the Jewish children — who, starting in January 1939, were all required to have on their identity papers “Jewish” names such as “Sarah” for girls and “Israel” for boys — is asked to sign his or her name on the new American papers.

Pressman tried to locate the children, now pushing into their 80s and beyond. He says that a year ago, about half were still alive. Some have traveled to reunions hosted by One Thousand Children Inc., which is dedicated to the 1,000 or so children who arrived in the United States via Kindertransports.

Nine of the Krauses’ 50 children are in the film. Among them is Kurt Herman of Philadelphia, who was 9 years old when his parents offered him up to the Krauses.


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