Ruth Gru­ber; Richard Hol­brooke, fwd.
  • Review
By – December 9, 2011

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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Bat­she­va Ben-Amos has two Ph.D.s, one in soci­ol­o­gy from the U. of Penn­syl­va­nia, the oth­er in clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy from Hah­ne­mann University/​Hospital. In 2007, she received a fel­low­ship for The Sum­mer Insti­tute on the Holo­caust and Jew­ish Civ­i­liza­tion at North­west­ern University.

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