On July 18, 1947, Dr. Ruth Gruber stood on a wharf in Haifa and watched the battered ship Exodus inch into the harbor. The ship had been rammed by British warships determined to keep the 4,554 Holocaust survivors aboard from reaching Palestine.
Previously, Gruber was the only journalist allowed to enter the Soviet Arctic; now she was the only American journalist who followed the Exodus passengers as they were transferred to British prison ships and sent back to Europe. An updated edition of her classic 1948 book on the drama is now in bookstores, retitled “Exodus 1947: The Ship That Launched a Nation” (Times Books $25).
It wasn’t the first time that Gruber had worked with refugees. In 1944, then-Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes assigned her a secret mission: She was to travel to Italy to bring 1,000 refugees through Nazi-infested waters to safe haven in Oswego, NY. Her subsequent book, “Haven: The Unknown Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees” is the subject of a new musical play, “Oswego,” which will have a staged musical reading at People of the Book, The Jewish Book Festival Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m. at the West Valley JCC. Gruber, now 88, will be on hand for a panel discussion after the event, sponsored by the Jewish Center for Culture and Creativity.
On Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Valley Cities JCC, author Susan Dworkin will discuss her book, “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust.” The tome tells of Viennese Jew Edith Hahn Beer, who romanced a Nazi party member during the war. He married her, despite her confession that she was Jewish, and kept her identity secret.
For information about the Gruber and Dworkin events, call (818) 464-3300.