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One of the Great Corrspondents of the Twentieth Centruy Tells Her Story
By Ruth Gruber
Foreword by Richard Holbrooke
Schocken Books, New York: 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8052-4243-0

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - July 9, 2007

Witness is Ruth Gruber's gripping autobiography that details her life and her career. As a journalist and photographer, Gruber traveled around the globe, documenting just about everything from the building of the Alaskan highway to a Russian Gulag in Siberia. Within the span of her remarkable career, Gruber also worked for Harold L. Ickes (Secretary of the Interior) from 1941-46, and as a secret envoy for Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). During her years of 'government service' Gruber was giving the task of helping to bring 1,000 Jewish refugees into America - the only Jewish refugees that were allowed in during World War II! She was also a witness to the attack on the Exodus 1947 by British forces. The Exodus 1947 was ferrying 4,500 Holocaust survivors to Israel when it was forcibly stopped from entering Israel, and the passengers and crew were sent back to Europe. Leon Uris credited Gruber's account of this incident as the foundation for his best-selling book Exodus.

Gruber's account of the Exdous 1947 impoundment and the other events chronicled in this book are eye opening and at times almost unbelievable - but they are all true! Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1911, Gruber has been a dynamo her entire life. She's written 19 books, including I Went to the Soviet Arctic, Destination Palestine: The Story of the Haganah Ship "Exodus 1947", Raquela: A Woman of Israel, and this, her latest book, was published when she was 95!

Gruber's absorbing narrative is enhanced by the inclusion of 190 of her own photographs, each accompanied by her own description. Witness is an unbelievably fascinating book. I was surprised to find that this book is a real page turner - and one that you cannot put down. Or at least I couldn't. I read the book in one sitting, and have since gone back to look at the pictures in more detail and to reread some of the more enthralling passages.

Witness is an important book. It is important from a 'Jewish viewpoint' for Gruber's eyewitness accounts of many of the events associated with the establishment of the State of Israel, from its tumultuous early days and the prison camps in Cyprus, to the ingathering (to Israel) of Jews from around the world, including Romania, the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Iraq. This book is also important because it sheds light on the life of a remarkable Jewish woman whose story is both inspirational and unforgettable!

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