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Haven - A Book Review

There are many personal accounts of the Holocaust. They are invaluable works that take us from the relative peace of today to remind us of the hell that was and could be. But rarely do we get to hear from those that were not tortured and hunted down. Rarely do we hear the words of those that fought to save those lives and helped shape a post-Holocaust world for not just the Jews but for all who found themselves at Hitlerís lack of mercy. Ruth Gruberís Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America tells the story of the Holocaust as well as the story of the 1000 men, women, and children refugees who were allowed into the United States during World War II.

Sadly, few people know of the refugees who were allowed to come to America during the war. Just short of a 1000 refugees were brought into this country and placed at a former military base in Oswego, New York. Their stories filled newspapers in the 1940s and the hearts of many Americans. Those same stories have been lost over time and faded from the memories of the history books. In Gruberís book, she takes her personal notes that were made during her time with the refugees and gives the world back those stories.

This is not just a story of women who climbed the mountains of Europe while pregnant in the hopes of fleeing from the death-grip of the Nazis. This is not just a story of a man who hid in the woods for days without food or clothing as the German soldiers scoured the hillsides killing all refugees they could find. This is not just a story of a young girl who hid in basements as the soldiers dragged all Jews into the streets to be killed. This is not just a story of a Christian woman who hid Jews and helped them escape before she was captured and tortured just for showing human kindness to someone else. This is also a story of a woman in the 1940s who took the role of journalist, general, humanitarian, interpreter, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, liaison, champion, and role model for all women around the world. Ruth Gruber was the one person who truly got to know the Oswego refugees and was the flag carrier for their cause and for many other causes that followed over the years. Her books, articles, and lectures have helped shaped the opinions of others, policies of government, and the role of women in journalism.

The stories Ms. Gruber recounts will tear your heart out. You donít read just one personís account. You get to truly see how widespread Nazi terror reached as she interviews people from all over Europe, from all walks of life, from all age groups. The poor and the rich were treated equally by the Nazis. Each was to be exterminated in the most inhuman ways possible. The young and the old were to be shot, buried, or starved to death. Men and women were to face the dark face of death. Gruber takes these personal stories and delicately intertwines them in the story of the transportation and residency of the refugees. She recounts their words as they stood on the transportation ship in concentration camp clothing. She repeats the horrible words of Nazi treatment as they entertained the soldiers that risked their lives for this chance of freedom. She shares their fears, hopes, sorrows, and passions as they see the symbolic Statue of Liberty and the miracle of life instead of the promised death they once had.

The book goes beyond just bringing the refugees into America and placed into the refugee camp. Ms. Gruber goes through the days of fighting for permanent placement for the refugees as well as the adjustments, both physical and psychological, each refugee experienced. Through Ms. Gruberís eyes, the reader spends time with the refugees and understanding their lives as well as spending time with the politicians and seeing the complicated work of democracy work in an effort to treat the refugees the ďright wayĒ. In reading this book, youíll cry from the stories and want to scream from the bureaucracy.

What more can I say about this book? If you really want to know more about the Holocaust and World War II, you have to read this book. It is more than just Holocaust survivor stories. You will learn how the government functioned and struggled during this time. You will learn the dealings of departments over the various issues. You will learn the truth of many historical actions. You will learn what it was like to become one with the Holocaust survivors and how many people gave up their lives to help them. It is a wonderful book that will pull at your heart strings and have you wanting to know more about Ms. Gruber and her tireless work to help many across the globe.

Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America is truly a must read book. It will be one that I plan on gracing my bookshelves and my studies for years to come.

Note: This book was provided by the publisher at my request.

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