- Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus were an affluent, secular Jewish couple from Philadelphia. Gilbert Kraus, an attorney, became increasingly distressed by reports of Nazi atrocities against German and Austrian Jews and became determined to do what he could to help. Kraus was approached by Louis Levin, then the Grand Master of Brith Sholom, to discuss a possible plan for Brith Sholom to organize a rescue mission. Kraus contacted Rep. Leon Sacks, who was elected to Congress in 1936. Sacks helped facilitate a meeting for Kraus and Levine with George Messersmith, an Assistant Secretary of State, to discuss their plan and present the very unusual approach that they be able to obtain unused visas. Though discouraging in their initial meeting, Messersmith sent a favorable memo to senior State Department officials in charge of the visa division and to Raymond Geist at the American embassy in Berlin about the group and their well-organized plan.
Even with no guarantees in place, Brith Sholom raised all of the funds necessary to finance the rescue and offered to temporarily house the children in its summer camp. Eleanor worked to get sponsors who were willing to submit affidavits for the fifty children, finally securing fifty-four affidavits, in case there were any problems. In April 1939 Kraus headed to Europe with his friend Dr. Robert Schless, a German-speaking Jewish pediatrician from Philadelphia, to choose the fifty children. After realizing the enormity of the task, Kraus persuaded his wife Eleanor to leave their own children with friends and to join him in Vienna. Together they spent several weeks in Berlin and Vienna interviewing children and completing their emigration paperwork. Many desperate parents, all of whom were already in the process of trying to emigrate, came with their children to be interviewed and the final decision was made based on health and the sense that these children would be able to live apart from their parents. They obtained the fifty visas from the American Embassy in Berlin and finally the children were issued passports from the Germans so that they could leave. Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus personally accompanied the children on their voyage to the United States. They had hoped to bring a second transport of children to the States, but there were to be no additional Brith Sholom rescues. Though relatively unknown until recently, theirs was one of the largest private rescue operations before the start of World War II. The Krauses themselves took in two of the children.