Ruth Gruber

What This World
Might Have Been

Story and Photos by Tim Boxer

T is nothing short of amazing what kind of world this might have been if the Six Million were allowed to live. This realization was made vivid as foreign correspondent Ruth Gruber recounted how she struggled to bring 1,000 survivors of the Nazi slaughterhouse of Europe to the safety of a transit camp in Oswego, New York, in 1944.

After they settled here, they grew up to contribute mightily to society. One helped create the MRI and CAT scan. Another became one of the fathers of the Polaris and Minuteman missiles.  A five-year-old girl among the refugees today operates My Favorite Dessert Company, a popular Manhattan Midtown kosher restaurant.

Gruber, a retired foreign correspondent, wrote of her wartime experiences in a book, which recently aired as a CBS miniseries, Haven.

“The TV film took a lot of liberties, but it doesn’t bother me – after all, that’s Hollywood,” she said at YIVO’s annual dinner at the Pierre Hotel.

Dr. Eric Kandel

Bruce Slovin, board chairman of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and Vera Stern presented a lifetime achievement award to Gruber, 88. They also honored Dr. Eric Kandel, a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in medicine.

Kandel, who avoided the Holocaust when he left Vienna as a child in 1939, started out at the Yeshiva of Flatbush and Erasmus High School in Brooklyn. Today he is a professor in biochemistry at Columbia University.

The day he got the call that he would get the Nobel Prize for research in the molecular biology of memory, the first thing he did was go to shul.

That was not surprising. It was Yom Kippur and he was going anyway.

In accepting YIVO’s lifetime achievement award, Kandel said, “We have taken the first steps in linking mind to molecules.” (Right, I don’t understand it either!)

Sanford Batkin, Rosalind Devon,
Bruce Slovin and Ruth Gruber.

Another notable achievement is his marriage to Denise who, as a child, was hidden during the war in her native France.

“When I first met Denise,” Kandel said, “I asked if she wanted to go to the movies or to the best bar in town. Her eyes lit up and she said the best bar in town. I took her to my apartment.”

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