The Florence & Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University hosted a documentary screening Thursday night to promote Holocaust education within the Jewish community.
“50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus,” filmed by Steve Pressman, tells the story of a Jewish American couple, the Krauses, who rescued 50 children from Nazi-controlled Vienna in 1939.
“One of the things that we had found out is that when the Krauses got back, they didn’t talk much about the mission because it was looked down upon,” said Joyce Davis, daughter of Elizabeth Davis, who was rescued by the Krauses at age 5. “They had a lot of tragedy in their lives… [but] they did this incredible thing.”
Seth Davis, Joyce’s brother, said that he and his sister did not originally know that his mother and aunt were interviewed for the documentary.
“Once HBO took [the documentary], that’s when it really became real, which was about 4 years ago,” he said. “The answer is: this actually happened and it wasn’t a story my mother conjured out of some place.”
Around 50 members of the BU community attended the screening. After the documentary, Joyce Davis showed the audience a box of artifacts containing her grandmother’s passport, a telegram confirming that her mother and aunt made it safely to America and letters written by her grandparents.
“It’s very painful to read some of these [letters],” she said. “The pleas from my grandfather to my 9-year-old aunt at the time: ‘Please take care of [your sister]. Please take good care of her.’ It’s so sad to think of a 9-year-old who had to be so responsible for her sister, and it really took a toll on her life.”
Rabbi Michael Beyo, director of BU’s Hillel House, said the event is a great teaching tool and opportunity to work with other groups across campus.
“It is very important,” he said. “It is a collaboration with BU Trustees, Marsh Chapel and other departments. We try to offer the best programs, events for our students and for the entire BU community.”
Hillel House Director of Student Activities Aaron Selya said the event highlights the importance of remembering the Holocaust and educating people about it.
“It’s so easy to forget,” he said. “Think of how little we know of what went on 50, 100 or even 250 years ago. There’s so much opportunity [to remember] with videos and computer storage. The event shows that we’re committed to ongoing Holocaust education. It’s a topic that can really engage people year round. It doesn’t have to be confined to just one day.”
Joshua Tolub, Hillel House Director of Development, said Hillel is open to members of the BU and Jewish community alike, and he hopes documentary screening reflected that attitude.
“These events can bring in a little piece of everyone to better the community,” he said. “I am happy with the turnout. It’s always great to see such an important program get the attention it deserves and to see members of the BU community learning something new.”
Several members of the Hillel House student board said they found the event thought-provoking and informative.
Rebecca Fleischer, president of the student board, said while there are fewer firsthand Holocaust stories as time progresses, it is important for college students to continue learning about the Holocaust.
“It was a fantastic movie, one that showed multiple aspects of world history during such a tumultuous time,” Fleischer, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation junior, said. “Also, not many films cover the reaction of Americans in the late 1930’s, so I found it very interesting to see it from that point of view.”
Allison Penn, director of public relations on the student board, said the documentary helps keep memory alive through story.
“It’s important to focus on the individuals, on those who were saved, to have a name and a face,” Penn, a College of Communication sophomore, said. “From the knowledge I’ve gained from this story. I am now a witness to it.”