Ruth Gruber finds haven for 1,000 Holocaust refugees

August 3, 1944

Journalist and writer Ruth Gruber, photographed circa 1944 when she escorted Jewish refugees to the United States.

Courtesy of Ruth Gruber

When President Roosevelt decided to accept a thousand European immigrants in the midst of World War II and the Holocaust, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes chose the Jewish-American writer and journalist, Ruth Gruber, to go on a secret mission to escort the refugees to the United States. The journey—which culminated in the refugees' arrival in New York harbor on August 3, 1944 and their being given sanctuary on an old army base in Oswego, New York—became "the defining Jewish moment" of Gruber's life.

In her role as a spokesperson for the refugees, Gruber presented the refugees' journey as a human interest story for the press. She told the New York Times that the refugees represented "a cross-section of every refugee now pouring into Italy," including Jews, Catholics and Protestants for whom religious services were held onboard the ship. In a touching moment in Haven, her book recounting the voyage, Gruber recalls a rabbi conducting a service as the boat passed the Statue of Liberty, and her pride in telling the Jewish refugees of the Holocaust that the poem on the base was written by Emma Lazarus, an American Jew.

The story of these European refugees stands out as a momentary relaxation of America's restrictive immigration policy. President Roosevelt's decision provided the refugees with a safe haven as "guests" in the United States during the war, with the assumption that "they were destined to be sent back to their homelands when the peace comes." While Roosevelt planned to allow the 984 refugees to reside in the United States only until the end of hostilities, when the end of the war came, Gruber lobbied the President and Congress—with the help of Catholic, Jewish and Protestant clergy—and convinced the officials to let the refugees stay. While the story ended happily for these refugees, sadly it came at the expense of others waiting in displaced persons camps in Europe. Since the overall immigration laws and quotas remained unchanged, the close to 1000 refugees were just subtracted from that year's quota.

Sources: Ruth Gruber, Haven: The Unknown Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees (New York, 1983); New York Times, August 5, 1944.


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Greetings, I remember the name well. In 1979, when Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty with Egypt, at the White House, he thanked several people and then included said "Mrs. Gruber." We at Reuters went nuts trying to find out who she was (no Internet). Not even Michael Arkus who spoke Hebrew and six other languages and has a photographic memory, could recall her. I can't remember how we discovered her background but it took a lot of phone calls. Evelyn

Ruth will be 104 at the end of September. She is truly an inspiration!

Ruth Gruber is indeed still alive and active. She'll be 99 on September 30, 2010.

The world premiere of "Ahead of Time" a film about her extraordinary life, took place at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.

You might try contacting her through her publishers: Basic Books 387 Park Ave., S. New York, NY 10016 Phone: 212-340-8100

Knopf Doubleday Academic Marketing 1745 Broadway, 20-2 New York, NY 10019 Phone: (212) 572-2444 Fax: (212) 572-2662

Good luck!

Recently, I came across a copy of Ì¢‰âÒHavenÌ¢‰âÂå by Ruth Gruber. It reminded me that I had the privilege of attending their 50th reunion at Oswego. I took a few rolls of film of the attendees and their descendants. The stories I heard first hand made me feel like Ruth Gruber did with awe inspired, with empathy and amazement over the courage and strength of these incredible pioneers.

I also visited Germany that same year and walked thru the Dachau Concentration camp as if I were a prisoner going through the process and viewed the bigger than life photos that are posted through out the buildings. For the first time in my life the "stories" in the history books and in movies became real and with tears coursing down my cheeks I studied the faces on those pictures and felt a tiny understanding of the horrors they went through.

The refugees arrival in NY was exactly 6 years before I was born. (August 3, 1951)

These experiences gave me a new and deeper love for those of the Jewish heritage and the lot in life they have because they are the chosen people of God.

If Ruth Gruber is still living I would very much like to be able to be in touch with her to share the photos I have. Maybe she will recognize some of them. I would love to hear her talk about those experiences and more of what happened afterwards.

Thank you.

In reply to by Barbara Hibbard

On Sept. 19 2011 we celebrated Ruth Grubers 100th birthday. i know your posting is a year old, but if interested get in touch!

Just for your information, Fort Ontario has recently been threatened and very close to closure. Since it is a historic site and a public draw, closing it would also mean that less people would be coming to the site where the Jewish refugees were interned. "The journeyÌ¢‰â‰۝which culminated in the refugees' arrival in New York harbor on August 3, 1944 and their being given sanctuary on an old army base in Oswego, New YorkÌ¢‰â‰۝became "the defining Jewish moment" of Gruber's life."

For a while, the many supporters of the Fort and the Safe Haven museum have been able to keep it open at this time, but I thought your site might be a good place to bring awareness to people who have had some interest in this historic place. Also, I am not sure how to send this without a homepage, so I have added the SafeHaven address as the Homepage, but it is not my own Homepage.

Some news links:

Thank you for your attention in this! -RP

In reply to by Rosemarie Pupparo

Dear Ruth Gruber, Thank you, I am one of the 982 people who survived. Happy Birthday! Sincerely, Anna Itala Weinstein


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Jewish Women's Archive. "Ruth Gruber finds haven for 1,000 Holocaust refugees." (Viewed on May 19, 2024) <>.