Pennsylvania camp was summer home for ’50 Children’ saved from Holocaust

A former Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania was the summer home of a group of 50 Jewish children who were saved from Nazi-occupied Vienna and brought to the U.S. by a Philadelphia couple (Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus) in 1939.

As detailed in an HBO documentary released last year and a new book written by the film’s director, Steven Pressman, Camp Brith Sholom in Collegeville, Pa. (aka Camp Sholomville), was the initial destination for the Jewish children rescued from Nazi-occupied Austria, who spent the summer at the camp before being placed with foster families.

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A 2002 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer describes what life was like for the young refugees at the camp:

The children were housed in a new stone building on the campgrounds. Doctors, nurses, teachers and counselors were already in place when the children arrived.

For the rest of the summer, the children attended English classes, learned how to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag, and wrote letters to their parents.

“Camp was a summer dream – food, care, housing, all first-rate,” said Kurt Herman, one of the children. Now 73, he is a retired financial officer living in Philadelphia.

They also played baseball, went swimming, and learned how to chew gum.

“The camp was a place to run around and have fun,” said Edwin Tepper, a physician from Manasquan, N.J., who was 7 in 1939.

“The camp at Collegeville was just beautiful – I enjoyed it,” said Ella Speigler, 74, of West Orange, N.J., who considers herself “a lucky person.”

The camp property, which was acquired and became a camp in 1936, was sold in 1965 with proceeds going to buy and build the current Brith Sholom House in Philadelphia. Some memories of the camp are collected on the Camp Sholom website at www.campsholom.com.

The book, 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple’s Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany, is available on Amazon.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I’m the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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