This somewhat sanitized mini-series based on Ruth Gruber’s acclaimed memoirs is nonetheless a worthy addition to the honor roll of Holocaust dramas. In 1944, Ruth Gruber (Natasha Richardson) requests a leave from her administrative job at the Department of the Interior and volunteers for a post with the US Refugee Board. Believing that President Franklin...read more
This somewhat sanitized mini-series based on Ruth Gruber’s acclaimed memoirs is
nonetheless a worthy addition to the honor roll of Holocaust dramas.
In 1944, Ruth Gruber (Natasha Richardson) requests a leave from her administrative job at the Department of the Interior and volunteers for a post with the US Refugee Board. Believing that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's recent decision to defying Congress and ordered the acceptance of 1000
Jewish refugees from Europe is indicative of future rescue efforts, Gruberwants to help in any way possible. Anti-Semitic board members order State Department official Lawrence Dickson (Robert Joy) to tag along and undermine her, but Guber's patronizing bosses aren't counting on her personal commitment to stemming genocide. Not only does she have relatives in concentration camps, but
Gruber lived in Germany long enough to witnessed Hitler’s rise to power. After rounding up a chosen few abroad, Gruber faces unanticipated obstacles on the battleship voyage home: The survivors fight among themselves and wounded sailors resent that their comrades were forced to stay behind in order to make room for displaced persons. Realizing that Americans must sympathize with the new arrivals, Gruber lines up a shipyard press conference that US bureaucrats secretly cancel. Shunted off to an upstate New York internment camp, the
refugees have lots of time to ponder the irony of their fates: They aren't in death camps, but there are no new lives awaiting them. As Gruber lobbies for education and jobs outside the Oswego, New York, camp, she runs smack into anti-Semitic sentiment at the highest levels of her government. The citizens of Oswego, on the other hand, overcome their initial hostility and eventually bond with their immigrant neighbors. When WWII ends, bigoted congressmen pass legislation to ship the Jews back to Europe, but the affronted townspeople demonstrate a charity and tolerance absent in their political representatives.
Hollywood never quite nails the harrowing reality of historical tragedies like this because there always seems to be someone more interested in delivering a show-offy performance than embodying a persecuted soul. But screenwriter Suzette Couture’s adaptation of Gruber's story deftly compresses her uphill battle against flag-waving prejudice and conveys a palpable sense of place and period that makes this piece of history scene painfully present.
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