"The words leaped at me from The Washington Post. 'I have decided,' President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced, 'that approximately 1,000 refugees should be immediately brought from Italy to this country.' One thousand refugees....For years, refugees knocking on the doors of American consulates abroad had been told, 'You cannot enter America. The quotas are filled.' And, while the quotas remained untouchable ... millions died."
With this mixture of desperation and hope, Ruth Gruber begins Haven, the inspiring story of one thousand Jewish and Christian refugees brought to sanctuary in America in 1944. As special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, Gruber was selected to carry out this top-secret mission despite the objections of military brass who doubted the thirty-three-year-old woman's qualifications. When Gruber met the gaunt survivors, they told her about hiding in sewers and forests, of risking their lives to save others. As she wrote down their stories, tears often wiped out the words in her notebook.
Gruber became the refugees' guardian angel during the dangerous crossing of the U-boat-haunted Atlantic, and during their eighteen-month internment at a former army camp in Oswego, New York. Lobbying Congress at the end of the war, she also helped the refugees become American citizens. This edition concludes with a new chapter featuring Gruber's look back on her many decades as a crusading journalist, and a special Appendix from the 1946 Congressional Record listing the names of all the camp's residents.
Basis for the CBS Mini-series Starring Natasha Richardson.
Ruth Gruber was an award-winning Jewish American journalist, photographer, and humanitarian. Born in Brooklyn in 1911, she became the youngest PhD in the world and went on to author nineteen books, including the National Jewish Book Award–winning biography Raquela (1978). She also wrote several memoirs documenting her astonishing experiences, among them Ahead of Time (1991), Inside of Time (2002), and Haven (1983), which documents her role in the rescue of one thousand refugees from Europe and their safe transport to America.
Wow, just wow. I have never cried so much in reading a book, but I loved reading it. Ruth Gruber (author) seems to be one amazing, incredible woman. The title had me believe that it would be personal stories of some of the refugees and their struggle on seeking freedom in the states. That wasn't QUITE the case. It was only 1,000 that the US govt was willing to take on (and specifically chosen individuals) - and even then, when the refugees finally made it to the states - they weren't "free". I had never known of this moment in history. One of the stories at the end of the book seriously haunted me for a few days. It's so hard to even imagine that these were actually LIVES LIVED. I highly recommend this book just be sure to have a box of tissues.
This is a another book assigned for my bat mitzvah. It was written by the journalist assigned by the Secretary of the Interior during the Roosevelt administration to accompany the first 1,000 refugees from Hitler's decimation of Europe from Italy to the United States. I was horrified to learn that these were the first allowed in to the US -- in 1944! -- and were kept at Camp Oswego in NY state before a series of congressional acts freed them. Anti-Semitism was - and still is - rampant. I found myself crying with every act of human kindness, and, of course, horrified by the stories of bravery, heroism, and the dignity of the human spirit that were told. At the time, the author was only in her 20's. She spent the rest of her career documenting wars of oppression around the world. An interesting point is that one of the women in my bat mitzvah class was a child of 4 on the ship that brought these refugees to the US and is mentioned in the book. It's an interesting read, but it is a documentary, told in chronological order. Also, although the author poured her heart and soul into saving these tempest-tossed refugees throughout their ordeal, sometimes the book seems to be more about her than about them. She did so much good, though, that I have to forgive her for that. Such bravery -- at 22 to get on army transport planes and fly into war-torn Europe to rescue these people. She is an amazing person.
I thought I'd be reading the tales of a select few of a thousand stories, instead, I only read one.
This isn't as much a story of the 982 Jews fleeing from Europe and Nazi terror to be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's guests in the United States as it's a story of a young woman making the trip with them and acting as their guide to their new life and home.
Haven and its thousand refugees are only the frame that holds the picture of Ruth Gruber facing her life-altering moment as she learns the extent of the horrors of the concentration camps, and the obstacles that come with modern democracy.
This book offers a rare glimpse to the inner machinations of the government and politicians and officials deciding people's fates. It shows the nasty edge of all politics as well as few good moments when reason and humanism wins. Gruber tells just how difficult it was to offer sanctuary for even those thousand people while millions were dying, and she shows all the loops she and others had to clear before the refugees could reclaim their lives and build new homes for themselves in America.
She also goes to a great detail of all the things that followed for herself over the years after the refugee camp had been closed.
All in all, I can see why she'd choose first person voice to tell this story. It is a personal story and it is nearly impossible to stay detached, but I do think that the book suffers for the lack of objectivity. I missed the neutrality as I read about the suppressed memorandums and the stern resolution to send the refugees back to the ravaged Europe as soon as the war would have ended. I missed it, because I couldn't feel the frustration or anything else Gruber must have felt while living through those months and years despite the intimate point of view.
The lack of objectivity also drowns out the individual survival stories that I thought were the most memorable parts of the book, or at least should have been.
Still, this is a story that had to be written and should be read. People need to know the mistakes of the past to learn from them.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
This book documents the trials and the lives of refugees from the Holocaust in Europe.When no one else would help, they were given sanctuary at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refuge Center in Oswego, New York. This was the only shelter of its kind in the U.S. I have visited this site, which is now a museum and education center. It is small, but impressive, located in the beautiful countryside in N.Y. state. The story of their passage in the dangerous Atlantic and the efforts by Ruth Gruber are described with heartrending detail in this book. Of interest is the participation of the people from this area to lend assistance to the refugees.
This book was highly informational to me, as it showed a moment of compassion on the part of Franklin Roosevelt to bring 1,000 World War II refugees, mostly Jews, to a fenced camp in the U.S. It also showed the intransigence of government officials, particularly congressmen, who opposed such a merciful mission either because of isolationist tendencies or anti-Semitism. It illustrated to me how long such prejudice against refugees/foreigners has existed in the U.S. and how it blithely continues today with a proposal to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.
These 1,000 refugees were the result of a single moment in time of American compassion, which was then immediately followed by a reaction back to previous prejudices, ignorance, and just plain selfishness. One of the nice things about the book is that the reader can follow in pretty good detail what happened in this "guest" camp in Otswego, New York, and the rivalries of the refugees, who included Yugoslavs, Viennese, Germans, and Italians, to develop national cliques that complained when announcements came in the words of a language that was not native to them. After more than a year in the fenced-in compound, the melting pot principle began to manifest itself, which I found encouraging.
The book also relates some of the unspeakable tortures and humiliations that these refugees suffered at the hands of the Gestapo and fascistic soldiers of the various European countries that the group fled from--one refugee had survived five concentration camps. The group included doctors, artists, professors, professionals of all stripes as well as less-educated people who were reduced to latrine cleaners and floor sweepers in the fenced-in compound, while the U.S. political system ground slowly to its decision of whether to allow the refugees to become American citizens, send them back to their original ravaged countries in Europe, or just stay fenced in until further notice.
Finally, after fierce advocacy by the author of this book, who had been appointed as a special U.S. ambassador, and members of FDR's cabinet such as Harold Ickes, the nearly 1,000 refugees were released to freedom, with the remorseless politicians in Washington refusing to raise quotas on any subsequent refugees.
The book shows a good microcosm of what 1,000 people, mostly strangers, can do when fenced into a colony, gradually getting their rags replaced and new shoes bought and fed army rations to the degree that they gained large sums of weight--meaning that the skeletal refugees now began to look like humans.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in World War II, Judaism, and the life-threatening adventure that brought them eventually to freedom in the U.S. It's also just a fascinating narrative.
Seems like the stories from World War II, and in particular the Holocaust, are never ending, not to mention not well recorded for our American history. At least I had never heard this story, and as I was reading it, I wondered how many hundreds of thousands of stories have never been told and silenced forever.
While World War II was raging across Europe, FDR decided to invite 1000 refugees to come to the US until the war ended. He chose journalist Ruth Gruber to be in charge of bringing them to our country since she was fluent in German and Yiddish, not to mention perhaps she would have a more calming influence on the refugees as a woman. In May 1944, she landed in Naples and 982 refugees supported the ship bound for freedom. They were from 18 different countries, and while most were Jewish, there were also Greek Orthodox, Catholics, and a smattering of others.
On the ship, the author organized classrooms to help those who didn't speak English, as well as recording their stories. This was very difficult for me to read, and as is almost always the case, I had to stop several times. The human spirit NEVER to amaze me, and not only is it a miracle that so many survived these camps, etc. (not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), but had the courage to relive their horrors by recording them in one form or another so we will always know what happened.
The refugees were thrilled to be coming to America and were settled into account in Western New York, Oswego. They were grateful but as time went on, they were still not free. After the war was over, there was a huge political fight in Congress that dragged on until early 1946 when they were free to stay here as citizens thanks to Truman.
While I was reading this book, I was struck once again how so many people are anti-Semite and yet go to war for the Jewish people. I believe part of this is a humanitarian gesture, but that fails to satisfy me since they are still persecuted and not treated class human beings for so much of the time. This is one thing I don't think I will ever understand.
This is a very moving and wonderful book. It is filled with stories of cruelty and heartbreak and stories of survival and hope.
It also puts things in perspective. It is very easy for us to forget that there were many isolationists during the WWII era that enacted and upheld immigration quotas to limit the number of Jews and Europeans that could come to the US. These quotas amounted to a death sentence for many Jews and others fleeing from Hitler.
Ruth Gruber reminds us of this fact in this very well written book by using vivid prose and contributing great biographical sketches of many refugees on the boat the Henry Gibbins.
The descriptions and dialogue also remind me of a snappy WWII era movie. Ruth tours Naples wearing a glamorous suit and matching gloves. A sailor on the ship reacts to a pretty girl by saying, "Hubba Hubba! Look at that tomato!" A girl sneaks out of the refugee camp to go jitterbugging. Altogether, an important book and a new perspective on how people really felt during the 1940's about the Jews and Hitler.
Haven recounts an amazing story of rescue and redemption. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt agrees to allow 1000 European refugees to come to America. Ruth Gruber, the author, escorts them to Oswego, NY where an internment camp has been built for these newcomers. Before the refugees were allowed to enter the country, they all signed contracts that they would return to their home countries at the end of the war. With compassion and grace, Gruber recounts the horrifying stories of these survivors. In their complete insanity, the Nazis pursued the Jews and other minorities with undying zeal. All of these refugees relate hair raising stories. You cannot read these vignettes without a tear. On a personal note, my wife is a native of Oswego, NY and the arrival of these refugees was the biggest event in the history of her small town. If you want to understand the creation of the state of Israel or the horrors of the Holocaust, read this amazing book. We should never forget what happened to these people and the all of Europe due to the madness and insanity of the Nazis and Germany.
I was born in Oswego and spent my entire childhood in Oswego County. I was shocked when I learned (just this year) of the refugee camp housed at Fort Ontario during WWII. How is it possible that such a HUGE event could have occurred not ten miles from my hometown without my ever being told about it? It was my understanding that the US closed its doors to refugees, especially Jewish refugees during the war. That being said, this was a phenomenal book, one that I am thrilled to have discovered. While I'm sure that my personal roots make this account seem of particular importance to me, the tales of the individual survivors are universally applicable to us all. I cried and I rejoiced, as I'm sure so shall you.
Great story about the rescue of almost 1,000 refugees from Italy in 1944 by order of FDR. Particularly pertinent today as we refuse to let in Syrian refugees fleeing war and persecution. The book is much better than the made for TV movie with Natasha Richardson. The book ends with a recap of Ruth Gruber's amazing life after she helped with this mission, including many other adventures and reporting assignments. Most importantly at the end she is asked how she does it all and answers "In four simple words, never, never, never retire." Good advice for me as I enter that phase. I am sorry to say that our library doesn't even have a single copy of this book. A serious oversight.
This was eye opening. I have read a great deal about World War II in regards to Hitler's Holocaust but I never realized to what extent the US government had turned its head away from reality. This is the account of how we finally allowed 1000 persecuted Jews into our country in order to save their lives and their struggle to be able to remain here when the war ended. The journalist who fought for and accompanied the survivors through this journey is the author.
The main body of this book was five stars. It told the story of a group of WWII refugees, largely but not entirely Jewish, rescued by the US. Gruber included many personal stories from the individuals involved, letting us connect with the human side of the situation. These stories were told with sensitivity, and not milked for maudlin effect. She also did an excellent job of giving insight into the political side of the story as well. When I was in school, I unthinkingly accepted the story that the US was too far away for people to flee to--perhaps because I didn't know of anyone who had actually been to Europe, the idea of intercontinental travel was rather implausible to me. But now that Gruber walked me through the situation, I am aghast that my country didn't take in any more than this one tiny group of refugees, and was so unwelcoming even to those. We could have done better. We should have done better.
Where she lost me was in Part 4, the last 50 pages of the book. It was a rambling sort of where-are-they-now, mentioning various individuals we had met earlier, and details from the author's personal life, and what became of some of the concentration camps, and immigration to Israel from various other countries and continents, and, and. It was a jumbled collection of scenes from various points throughout a span of about 50 years, that felt like the author just wasn't quite ready to stop writing, but had lost track of what the book was actually meant to be about. I appreciated the concept of this section, but not the execution.
This was an amazing story of how Ruth Gruber went to Italy and helped save almost 1,000 refugees from the Holocaust. Her description of the journey, the people, and the politics of the US at the time is unequaled in all of the books I have read. Her gift of bringing the refugees to life and their experiences in Oswego, NY is wonderful. I highly recommend this book!
Haven; (n) 1. a harbor or port 2. any place of safety, shelter, refuge or asylum (from Dictionary.com, Merriam Webster)
I just finished reading Haven. Ruth Gruber was an excellent writer. This is a must read for any US citizen. We were only taught so much about WWII in school. I am sure that many people have no idea how hard it was for these WWII refugees who had suffered so much, to gain entrance to the US. Ruth told the story of her assignment to meet and accompany 1,000 Holocaust refugees on the Henry Gibbons, a ship bound for the USA in 1944. While most of the refugees were Jewish, some were Christians and political refugees. FDR and his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes decided to offer a safety net to 1000 carefully chosen European refugees at a time when many people in the US government, state governments and the general population were against relaxing the quotas for immigration to help save the millions of Europeans that had suffered persecution by the Nazis and other European fascist groups and actually managed to survive. Ruth's mission was kept secret from the US citizens until they arrived. This was a time of antisemitism in the US. The ship left out of Naples and arrived in New York in secrecy. On board the ship, Ruth documented the refugees stories of the horrors that they had suffered and witnessed. Ruth and the refugees then boarded a train and traveled to the safe haven of Fort Ontario, an army camp that was not being used in Oswego, NY. Most of these refugees had escaped from European concentration camps and were then sent to this US camp. Once again, they found themselves fenced in, but at least they were safe. While I am glad that FDR took it upon himself to save some European refugees, I can't believe that this great nation of ours did not do more to offer holocaust survivors that made it to allied occupied areas, some sort of haven. Europe was in ruins. We must remember that those survivors did nothing to warrant the destruction of their families, homes and countries. While the US and Russian armed services were able to eventually destroy the Nazis and the fascists, which the refugees were thankful for, many of the US government officials and citizens felt that was more than enough and felt no sympathy for the displaced sick and starving survivors . This is a story about extreme cruelty and atrocities committed by one group against another on the grounds of religion, ethnicity and politics in the 1940's. Sadly, human beings in most of the nations on Earth, don't seem to have learned anything about compassion and respect for fellow human beings. As the Henry Gibbons passed by the Statue of Liberty, Ruth recited the poem at the base of the statue: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."by Emma Lazarus, an American Jewish woman born in New York. I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to understand what makes this world tick, then and now.
"Haven" is Ruth Gruber's remarkable account of a relatively small but still significant effort to rescue refugees from Nazi occupied Europe. In July 1944, 982 people from eighteen countries (most, but not all, were Jews) crossed the Atlantic from Italy. Their destination was a camp in Oswego, New York, where they were to stay until the Second World War ended. Roosevelt insisted that they would not be granted U. S. citizenship when the fighting ceased. Instead, they would be sent back to their native lands. As a special assistant to Harold L. Ickes, FDR's Secretary of the Interior, thirty-two year old Gruber was assigned to escort the refugees and help resettle them in Fort Ontario, a former army camp. The author tells us of the endless maneuvering it took to obtain basic necessities for these traumatized men, women, and children. In addition, Gruber tried to keep the evacuees from sinking into depression by providing much-needed comfort, kindness, and encouragement.
Gruber, who passed away in 2016 at the age of one hundred and five, was brilliant, energetic, and a great communicator. With the assistance of those who shared her passion, she embarked on a critical mission—to help those who fled Hitler's regime to obtain educational opportunities, a livelihood, dignity, and the chance to pursue their dreams. Standing in the way were powerful men who did not welcome the foreign-born to their shores. This outstanding book is based on the diaries that Gruber kept, as well as reports, letters, and government documents.
It is partly thanks to Gruber's persuasiveness and determination to fight for what she believed that the refugees were, at long last, allowed to remain in America. They reunited with family members, married and had children, went to school, and worked hard to achieve their goals. Especially heartening is the author's update on what the evacuees accomplished years after they were granted permanent asylum. Many became successful professionals, excelling in such fields as science, medicine, business, teaching, and the arts.
There are many poignant, enlightening, and humorous anecdotes in "Haven." Although the writing style is, for the most part, factual, there are passages that capture the wide spectrum of the evacuees' emotions: gratitude and relief to be out of physical danger, but also anger and frustration at having to stay in a compound behind a chain-link fence with barbed wire during their eighteen months in Oswego. Besides the chapters describing the joys and sorrows that Gruber and the refugees experienced, we learn about Gruber's personal life; her pilgrimages to concentration camps; tireless efforts to bring displaced persons to Israel; speeches she made to publicize the causes in which she believed; and her remarkable work as a journalist and photographer. When Ruth Gruber set her mind on getting things done, she persisted until every avenue was explored and every possibility exhausted. Ms. Gruber was a woman of valor whose compassion, courage generosity, and activism drove her to move mountains to help those in need.
“One thousand refugees.” America was shocked when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced that 1,000 refugees would be brought from Italy to the US. The story takes place in the spring of 1944, in the middle of World War II. For years European refugees have been told that they were unable to enter America and that the quotas were completely filled, which lead to millions of people suffering until death. There was suddenly a hint of hope in saving the refugees, and finally the actions of America were having a greater impact than the words that have been spoken for so long. America’s Army would take the refugees to a camp in Fort Ontario in New York. Ruth Gruber was Harold L. Ickes Alaskan field representative and secretary. Gruber is faced with a top-secret mission, and throughout her journey, her skill and capability is questioned. When Gruber had the chance to meet with the survivors, she was faced with devastating stories of how they barely survived. She recorded the stories she heard from the life of a home as a sewer, to saving other refugees’ lives. Gruber experienced an unbelievable happening. As she became closer and closer with the people who she was surrounded with, she feels a great bond with them and an astounding love and care for each of them. As she travels Europe to help escort them, she becomes the refugees’ protector, and fights for their rights to live as American citizens. Ruth Gurber tells the story in a way that hasn’t been done before. She tells her life experience along with the stories of people she has interacted with. She is able to look back on the years that have passed and journals phenomenally about what she has observed.
This is the story of a small group of Europeans rescued in 1944 from Europe and given haven in the US by President Roosevelt. The writer is a Jewish American journalist who was working for the Department of the Interior and spent much of her time coordinating the project and documenting the experiences of the refugees. She becomes more than just an objective documentation collector but comes to represent to those living on the former Army base at Oswego as a sort of guardian angel and problem solver for the community.
I was not very impressed with the writing but anyone reading this book will be moved by the harrowing stories of the survivors. Their stories are added to the many others I have read about in other books, what courage and determination to survive!
The writer mentions but does not dwell on the tragic refusal of the US to help European Jewish refugees during the entire Nazi era. However, it is this that stays with me as much as the individual stories of survival. This one action was a token project to diminish the government's collective guilt as the horrible truth was finally being grasped. Stories of the atrocities of Hitler were suppressed by the government for the entire war. The public was not given enough information to provide opinions on what should be done. Those in power determined the policies and non-response of our country. The irony that over 100,000 3rd Reich POWs were brought to the US during the war and treated well is hard to reconcile.
“I have a theory that even though we’re born Jews, there is a moment in our lives when we become Jews. On that ship, I became a Jew.” - Ruth Gruber
To write a nonfiction book as thorough as Haven no doubt takes talent. But to listen to and record the stories of refugees, and to feel their pain and suffering, takes humanity. Ruth Gruber had both.
This story is not an easy one to tell. There were nearly 1,000 refugees on that boat, people who had witnessed the worst atrocities committed by mankind yet survived. It is on the boat that you realize how their lives were not just touched by the Nazi war machine, but torn; when they reach the camp in Oswego, you come to see the depth of their loss. Lost homes, lost family members, lost lives. Their losses are so profound that the meaning of these broken lives does not hit you right away.
At the camp, there is a compassion among the inhabitants that is beautifully poignant. They travelled as a group. They settled into their new lives in a foreign land together. They laughed and prayed and grieved together. And somehow, with mere words, Gruber captures the remarkable strength of human spirit that was present among them.
I absolutely loved this book. Haven is the true story of Ruth Gruber who brought a boatload of 1000 refugees to the United States during Hitler's Nazi reign of terror in Europe. Ruth's love and concern for these refugees grew to include all refugees of the Nazis. She became their mother, their mentor, their savior. Her compassion and understanding of all people was incredible to see. Unfortunately America and other countries not under Nazi oppression were not as compassionate as Ruth and her boss. It hurt my heart to know that after these countries knew what Hitler was doing to the Jews, they still shut their borders and and turned their backs on thousands and thousands of people running and hiding to escape the slaughter.
This book should teach us a lesson about loving our neighbors. The entire world is our neighbor and turning our back on neighbors in peril is just plain immoral.
Another unbelievable episode in our country's untold/forgotten history.
I didn't realize the quota system was so strong during the war (WWII) as this brings to life. To think that millions of people - Jew, Catholic, gypsy, etc - were in harm's way but couldn't get to safety in US or Palestine blows my mind. Yet boats full of POWs were brought here! How many of them were returned to Europe. I wonder? Ruth Gruber writes an excellent story , easy to read without pathos, but with spirit, on the part of the refugees and Ruth who went through many trials with them. An old book (1983), but very good.
A movie was made of this story in 2001 "Haven" which I do not recal hearing much about. Ruth Gruber was 100 this past September.
An excellent book. Non-fiction, the story of 1000 survivors of concentration camps who were brought to the U.S. as a holding place until the end of the war when they were to be sent back. Ruth Gruber is the assistant to Harold Ickes (Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior) and was instrumental in the advocacy, planning and shepherding these persons to Camp Oswega in New York State. The book is a personal memory of the political feat of getting the U.S. to accept them in the first place, and to reconsider sending them back to Europe at the end of the War. A true story written beautifully by the person mainly responsible. A tribute to the human spirit and the triumph of those who were so close to annihilation.
Fantastic book. Gruber was a master storyteller, both of her own life and the lives of those she shares here. It's especially interesting to read this now, during another massive refugee crisis, and to see how many of the same issues prevent refugees from finding havens today - it was infuriating then, and it's infuriating now. My one problem with the book is the end: the book really should have stopped with the updates about the refugees and Gruber's subsequent work. But the last chunk of the book fizzles out after such a strong earlier dramatic narrative arc, and after being fully absorbed in the first 80% or so of the book, the last 20% made me impatient for it to be over, and a bit guilty at my own impatience. But it's worth it for that incredible 80%.
This is a very moving book and heartbreaking in many ways but also uplifting in 982 ways. That is the number of refugees given safe haven from the Nazi's in Fort Oswego, NY. To read what the refugees endured and lost before coming here is heartbreaking. Then you see them overcome what they have endured and go on to achieve normallives again is very uplifting.
This book is very poignant in today's political atmosphere. After 70 years some people have learned nothing. They are willing to banish an entire religion due to thier personal hatred and bigotry. This is done under the cry of National Security just as it was over 70 years ago.
This book is filled with very moving accounts of refugees, not limited to Jewish but also Christian and other religions, all who had endured harrowing atrocities. Accounts of government policies are woven throughout the book, as well as some personal perspective and background of the author. However, this information is pertinent in understanding the entire book. As an added bonus, the book does not stop with the personal case histories of the refugees who came to America but continues into the history of the people in present-day Israel. Well worth the read.