Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story

Ruth Gruber, Author, Ruth Gruber, Photographer, Richard Holbrooke, Foreword by Schocken Books Inc $27.5 (255p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4243-0

Journalist Gruber, a Ph.D. at age 19, became an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune in 1935, launching a career that covered the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, the establishment of Israel and the first glimpse of Siberian gulags. Gruber has a charming, feminine perspective rare to the times; combined with her knack for (very) telling details, she makes a riveting storyteller. For instance, 1941 found Gruber in Alaska with troops preparing of the U.S.'s entry into WWII, and she captures their desperation expertly in a single quote from a teenaged soldier who visited her one morning: "" 'Excuse me for bothering you. I'm so lonely. I only want to hear you laugh.' "" Similarly, a planeful of Yemenite Jews emigrating to Israel in 1949 hides a thunderous story: ""Because of years of starvation, (the Yemenites) were so tiny that the plane could hold twice as many Yemenites as Americans."" Gruber also found herself a participant in history-making: at 33, she escorted 1,000 Jews from Europe to America; in a 1951 visit with refugees in Israel, Gruber admonished Prime Minister Ben Gurion for deplorable living conditions, prompting quick improvements. Complemented by a slew of Gruber's own photographs-which succinctly record the desolation and hope of the times-this life story makes for a fascinating journey.