An Heroic Woman at 19 and 99

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Photo by Ruth Gruber

Photo by Ruth Gruber.

September 30 marks the 99th birthday of the photographer Ruth Gruber. I doubt you’ve ever heard of her. Surprisingly, I had not known of her heroic acts until now.

Born in Brooklyn in 1911, Ruth Gruber defied traditionfrom the moment she became the world’s youngest PhD at the age of 20.By the age of 24, she was the first journalist to explore the SovietArctic, and a few years later escorted Holocaust refugees to America ina secret war-time mission for President Roosevelt. She became the eyesand conscience of the world with her photographs of the refugees aboardthe ship Exodus 1947 and helped change the world.

She is the subject of an engaging new documentary Ahead of Time, the directorial debut of cinematographer Bob Richman (whose work on September Issue and My Architect are must see) and produced by Zeva Oelbaum. This film follows the remarkable life of Gruber:

“A spirited woman who rejected the gender boundaries ofher generation – leaving Brooklyn for studies in Berlin, where shewitnessed the rise of Nazism and began documenting her observations. Animpassioned foreign correspondent, she began her illustrious careerwith the New York Herald Tribune, is the award-winning author of 19 books.”

When few others were concerned with the Holocaust Gruber recordedthe case histories of survivors and refugees: “You are the firstwitnesses coming to America. Through you, America will learn the truthof Hitler’s crimes, ” she told her refugee charges. In turn, therefugees began calling Gruber “Mother Ruth” and looked to her for protection.

On this Labor Day it is uplifting to revisit Gruber’s life and work. Go here or here or here to watch the trailer. The film opens in LA on September 24 and NYC on September 10 and again on September 28.

Ruth Gruber
Ruth Gruber