50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus
In the spring of 1939, a Philadelphia Jewish lawyer and his wife carried out a bold plan to rescue 50 children from increasingly dangerous Nazi-occupied Vienna. Without official support from the American government and despite stiff resistance from major Jewish organizations, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus traveled into the heart of the Nazi empire – and left with an enduring legacy.
The Krauses never intended to be larger-than-life figures. Gilbert was a business lawyer in Philadelphia who loved to paint and play piano. Eleanor was a housewife with a penchant for stylish hats and fashionable cocktail dresses. But in 1939, as storm clouds were thickening over Europe, the Krauses left behind their comfortable lives – and their two young children – to carry out a daring mission: the rescue of 50 Jewish children from the oncoming horrors of the Holocaust. 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus is a documentary film that tells the compelling story of a quiet act of decency and humanity on the eve of one of modern history’s darkest chapters.
Propelled by a gripping and emotional story, and filled with a rich and colorful cast of characters, 50 Children weaves together the tale of the Krauses’ 1939 rescue operation and the life-altering impact that it had on 50 Viennese children and their families. The film combines present-day interviews and evocative modern footage with old family photos, documents and dramatic archival footage as a way of spanning the years and decades from the 1930s to the present. Along with narration from Emmy award-winning actor Alan Alda, the film features actress Mamie Gummer as the voice of Eleanor Kraus.
Who were these two Jews from Philadelphia and what motivated them to act so heroically on the eve of horror and destruction? Why did they leave the safety and comfort of their easy lives for the potential risks and dangers that confronted them in Vienna and Berlin? And finally, what is the legacy they left behind – both for their family and for the families of the children they rescued. These are the timeless and enduring questions that go directly to the heart of 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus.
About the Filmmakers
STEVE PRESSMAN, WRITER/DIRECTOR
Steven Pressman worked for many years as a newspaper and magazine journalist in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Berkeley. He and his wife, Liz Perle, live in San Francisco, along with their two grown children Roshann and David.
50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus is his first full-length film.
KEN SCHNEIDER, EDITOR
Ken Schneider has edited 20 feature-length films about war and peace, artists’ lives, American history and contemporary social issues. His films have won an Emmy, a Peabody, a Columbia-Dupont, an Indie Spirit and top awards at Sundance and at other major festival awards, and have been nominated for an Oscar and additional Emmys. Ken co-edited Regret to Inform, a film described by The New York Times as “unforgettable…exquisitely filmed, edited and scored.” His films have appeared on PBS’ series American Masters, POV and Independent Lens and in film festivals worldwide.
MARCO D’AMBROSIO, MUSICAL SCORE
Marco D’Ambrosio is a composer and music producer who has scored numerous award winning feature films, documentaries and live theatre projects. His film credits include Haiku Tunnel and Inequality for All (Sundance), the Emmy winning documentary Blink, documentaries Double Dare and Self-Made Man (PBS) and Red Diaper Baby (Sundance Channel).
BOARD OF ADVISORS
Adrianne Benton Furniss