New Paltz gallerist Mark Gruber had a remarkable aunt who died at the age of 105 in 2016. A new exhibition showcasing the trailblazing photojournalism of Ruth Gruber, spanning more than five decades on four continents, opens on Saturday, February 8.
Born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1911, Ruth Gruber was a prodigy who made headlines by the age of 20 by becoming the youngest person in the world to earn a PhD. While studying for her doctorate at the University of Cologne, she observed the rise of Nazism up close and actually attended a Hitler rally. Upon her return to the US, she went to work for the New York Herald Tribune and in 1935 became the first Western journalist to visit the Soviet Arctic and the gulag.
She was offered a job as a special assistant to interior secretary Harold Ickes, who assigned her in 1944 to accompany a convoy of ships carrying nearly a thousand Holocaust refugees from Naples to New York, where they would live until the end of the war at an Army camp in Oswego. This secret mission was the only attempt by the US to shelter Jewish refugees during the war. Issues of rescue, sanctuary and liberation remained her passion for the rest of her life.
In 1947, her exclusive photographs documenting the harrowing voyage of the Exodus 1947 – a ship carrying 4,500 Jewish refugees that attempted to break the British blockade on immigration to Palestine – were sent internationally via wire services to thousands of newspapers and magazines, including Life, and radically transformed attitudes toward the plight of Holocaust survivors after the war. A book she wrote on the experience inspired Leon Uris to write his best-selling novel Exodus. She also covered the Nuremberg trials and was, in her 70s, the only foreign correspondent to observe Operation Moses, the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel during a famine.
“Ruth Gruber: Photographs as Witness” opens on Saturday, February 8 with a free wine-and-cheese reception from 5 to 7 p.m. and will remain on view until March 21 at the Mark Gruber Gallery, located at 17 New Paltz Plaza. Gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and by appointment on Sunday. For more info call (845) 255-1241 or visit www.markgrubergallery.com.
Ruth Gruber: Photographs as Witness opening
Saturday, Feb. 8, 5-7 p.m., free
Mark Gruber Gallery
17 New Paltz Plaza, New Paltz