Schocken Books  2007


Witness is the life story in photographs of journalist Ruth Gruber, who was a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune from 1935 to 1967. The book itself covers the years 1935–1986. Ruth Gruber’s professional story starts in 1935 when she was sent to Siberia and the Soviet Arctic to study the local women and write about the local life and the new cities being built in the gulag. A pre-war trip to Alaska came in 1941 when she was asked by the Roosevelt administration to study the possibilities of homesteading after the war. After escorting 1,000 refugees from Italy to America in 1944, Gruber was assigned mainly to cover stories related to Jewish affairs. In 1946 she spent four months accompanying the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine through Europe, Palestine, and the Arab world, interviewing survivors in DP camps, photographing, and writing articles. In 1947 she traveled with the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, again visiting DP camps in Germany, Palestine, and the Arab world. On July 18, 1947, she witnessed the British attack on the ship “Exodus” which was carrying 4,500 Holocaust survivors. She followed them to the British prison camps in Cyprus and on one of the hospital-prison ships, which carried some of the survivors back to camps in Europe. Other trips followed Israel’s War of Independence, when Gruber covered major waves of emigration to Israel. In 1951, she traveled on a working honeymoon with her new husband to visit the Jewish community in Morocco, and she covered “Operation Ezra and Nehemia” of 120,000 Iraqi Jews who escaped to Israel. Between 1951 and 1986 she photographed new immigrants book from Romania Soviet Union, and Ethiopia.

All these voyages are featured in this book, accompanied by photographs taken by Gruber and her introductory comments to each assignment. The book has an important historical value focusing on major events in American and Jewish history related to World War II, especially since some of Gruber’s trips were real scoops in that they were first exposures in the media, such as the visits to Siberia and the Soviet Arctic. Maps, photographs.

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