Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kurt Herman: His Voice Still Heard

Arriving in U.S. in 1939, Kurt Herman, 9,  is just left of life ring; the Krauses are in the center.

I remember the twinkle in Kurt Herman's eyes, his smile, his joy in life. After all, he was one of the rare survivors. When Gilbert Kraus, a Philadelphia lawyer, and his wife Eleanor arrived in Vienna in 1939, determined to rescue 50 children, Herman's parents offered him up.
The mission became the largest kindertransport to the United States out of Nazi Europe, and more recently a movie and a book.
Kurt Herman, who died yesterday at age 85, featured in one of my first blogs. And for reasons only social media can explain, it has garnered the most "hits." Maybe because his story is that of a miracle. After all, few escaped Hitler's mass murder machine.  Or maybe people are drawn to the unbendable determination on Gil Kraus, who argued his way through torturous red tape on both sides of the Atlantic to accomplish his mission.
Or maybe it's simply because this is an unfathomable chapter in world history whose tellers are leaving us.
Kurt had that kind of double-edged view of life that comes from hard experience. He was an optimist and loved every moment; he was also a realist, saying "friends are great but you can only count on family." His friends, he said, abandoned him the moment Hitler arrived.
These are words he shared with hundreds of Philadelphia school children over the many years that he would go out and speak to them, despite his big jobs as an accountant. They are also words he would share with his grandchildren, as he did with me in an interview on YouTube.

Also here is a story I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Kurt's funeral is 9.30 a.m. at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael Sacks, Second Street Pike, Southampton.
His story, and that of the other children, also will live on in the movie and the book-- 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Mission into the Heart of Nazi German, of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, by Steven Pressman. A journalist, Pressman married the Krauses' granddaughter and unearthed
Eleanor's diary.
Thanks for sharing so much with us, Kurt. Let us pray that the world remembers your lessons.


Cheryl S. said...

Thank you for your beautifully written story about Uncle Kurt. The Holocaust was an ugly event but thanks to the heroics of the Kraus family and others, Kurt Herman was able to escape the Nazi machine and lead a productive life in America, marrying and fathering three daughters, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Gayle said...

My Dad was very special. Everyone who ever knew him knew he was special. He touched thousands of lives with his remarkable story and he'd tell them he was "One Lucky Guy". My sister, Shari, is going to keep his story alive by working with the Holocaust Awareness Museum, in Philadelphia, to keep telling his story.