Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story

Overview

With her perfect memory (and plenty of zip), ninety-five-year-old Ruth Gruber–adventurer, international correspondent, photographer, maker of (and witness to) history, responsible for rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II and after–tells her story in her own words and photographs.

Gruber’s life has been extraordinary and extraordinarily heroic. She received a B.A. from New York University in three years, a master’s degree from the University of ...

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Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story

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Overview

With her perfect memory (and plenty of zip), ninety-five-year-old Ruth Gruber–adventurer, international correspondent, photographer, maker of (and witness to) history, responsible for rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II and after–tells her story in her own words and photographs.

Gruber’s life has been extraordinary and extraordinarily heroic. She received a B.A. from New York University in three years, a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin a year later, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cologne (magna cum laude) one year after that, becoming at age twenty the youngest Ph.D. in the world (it made headlines in The New York Times; the subject of her thesis: the then little-known Virginia Woolf).

At twenty-four, Gruber became an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and traveled across the Soviet Arctic, scooping the world and witnessing, firsthand, the building of cities in the Siberian gulag by the pioneers and prisoners Stalin didn’t execute . . . At thirty, she traveled to Alaska for Harold L. Ickes, FDR’s secretary of the interior, to look into homesteading for G.I.s after World War II . . . And when she was thirty-three, Ickes assigned another secret mission to her–one that transformed her life: Gruber escorted 1,000 Holocaust survivors from Italy to America, the only Jews given refuge in this country during the war. “I have a theory,” Gruber said, “that even though we’re born Jews, there is a moment in our lives when we become Jews. On that ship, I became a Jew.”

Gruber’s role as rescuer of Jews was just beginning.

In Witness, Gruber writes about what she saw and shows us, through her haunting and life-affirming photographs–taken on each of her assignments–the worlds, the people, the landscapes, the courage, the hope, the life she witnessed up close and firsthand: the Siberian gulag of the 1930s and the new cities being built there (Gruber, then untrained as a photographer, brought her first Rolleicord with her) . . . the Alaska highway of 1943, built by 11,000 soldiers, mostly black men from the South (the highway went from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, 1,500 miles to Fairbanks) . . . her thirteen-day voyage on the army-troop transport Henry Gibbins with refugees and wounded American soldiers, escorting and then photographing the refugees as they arrived in Oswego, New York (they arrived in upstate New York as Adolf Eichmann was sending 750,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz).

In 1947, Gruber traveled for the Herald Tribune with the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) through the postwar displaced persons camps in Europe, and then to North Africa, Palestine, and the Arab world; the committee’s recommendation that Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state was one of the key factors that led to the founding of Israel.

We see Gruber’s remarkable photographs of a former
American pleasure boat (which had been renamed Exodus 1947) as it limped into Haifa harbor, trying to deliver 4,500 Jewish refugees (including 600 orphans), under attack by five British destroyers and a cruiser that stormed the Exodus with guns, tear gas, and truncheons, while the crew of the Exodus fought back with potatoes, sticks, and cans of kosher meat. In a cable to the Herald Tribune, Gruber reported that “the ship looks like a matchbox splintered by a nutcracker.” She was with the people of the Exodus and photographed them when they were herded onto three prison ships. Gruber represented the entire American press aboard the ship Runnymede Park, photographing the prisoners as they defiantly painted a swastika on the Union Jack.

During her thirty-two years as a correspondent, Ruth Gruber photographed what she saw and captured the triumph of the human spirit.

“Take photographs with your heart,” Edward Steichen told her.

Witness is a revelation–of a time, a place, a world, a spirit, a belief. It is, above all else, a book of heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
As a young woman, Gruber had some life-she was the world's youngest Ph.D. (at age 20) and an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune at age 24. Then she became enmeshed in humanitarian causes, first by leading Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to America. Now, at 94, she recalls it all. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805242430
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/24/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 981,537
  • Product dimensions: 7.28 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Gruber was born in 1911. She was a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune from 1935 to 1967. In 1998, Gruber received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She is the author of nineteen books, including I Went to the Soviet Arctic, Destination Palestine, Haven, Raquela, and Ahead of Time. She lives in New York City.
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 23, 2011

    Witness: One of the greatest foreign correspondents-Ruth Gruber

    Wonderful book. Don't know if it's the E version but some paragraphs were repeated in later chapters... Heart-expanding story of Ruth Gruber, reporter and shooter for the New York Herald Tribune. She witnessed the creation of Israel in 1948. Rescued thousands of Jews in France in 1944... Was the youngest, at 20, to earn a Ph.D. from University of Cologne in 1934... Was a convergent journalist before convergence... her writing was great, her reporting spectacular, her photography (Leica and Rolleicord) pretty strong... it was her 'never take no for an answer' attitude that won me over. Should be required reading for all reporters, both visual and wordsmiths. A must read for those who have hearts.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    A reviewer

    Review for ¿Witness¿ By Ruth Gruber Review by Phyllis Johnson Landing assignments her male colleagues hadn¿t, flying to the Soviet Arctic and then to Europe, seeing an exodus from a country ravaged during the Holocaust, Ruth Gruber was quite a photojournalist. She writes her memoir in ¿Witness¿ and serves as an inspiration to anyone spending his or her life tracking down a story, particularly one that may change someone¿s life for the better. A life full of adventure and passion for human justice is evident in her 257 page book published by Schocken Books. Sometimes smuggling a notebook in her bra, she ran the gamut from studying Eskimos in Alaska to talking to exiled prisoners in Soviet Gulag. Photos, black and white images, showing the Soviet Arctic and Alaska documented images of rustic living and reflections of the soul. She wrote of seeing the Aleuts in harm¿s way of the Japanese, then photographed their exodus. Her photos also show the exodus from the devastation caused by Hitler during the Holocaust in World War II.. A master at capturing intense emotion found in hardships, she knew how to get down in the trenches to get the best possible photos to tell a story. She went behind the scenes, sometimes dubbed as a simulated general to avoid a worse fate if captured as a spy. Later, she got stories from the refugees onboard an army transport and then pulled into the NY Harbor on August 3, 1944- the same day Anne Frank¿s family was betrayed. Ruth was accompanying to the United States 1,000 refugees invited by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt while day and night Adolph Eichmann was rushing cattle trains carrying 750,00 Jews into the death camps at Auschwitz. She records her travels to Europe, the Holy Land and the Arab World, and how she came to be witness to the Nuremberg Trials. Seeing the plight of the Jews trying to come home to Palestine, she interviewed both Arabs and Jews, and followed the journey of Iraqi Jews to Israel. Seeing compassion in a lawyer and social activist named Phil, she was moved to marry him. Ruth Gruber¿s account of the ongoing struggle for those seeking justice and fair treatment in life is both vivid and poignant in her book, ¿Witness.¿ Review by Phyllis Johnson, author of Being Frank with Anne (poetic interpretation of Anne Frank's diary)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 27, 2012

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