The Museum is excited to celebrate the remarkable life and work of humanitarian and photographer Ruth Gruber in the special exhibition Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist. While Gruber captured images from all over the globe, she is arguably most known for her work documenting the plight of survivors on the Exodus 1947 in Haifa and on the Runnymede Park British prison ship.

We are so pleased to have in the Museum’s own collections a set of digital photographs that offer a deeply personal snapshot of life in the Displaced Persons camp “Poppendorf” and on the Ocean Vigor. Vigor was one of the ships that brought Jews from Palestine back to Europe after the British intercepted the Exodus 1947. This set was donated by Rena Olenick, a local survivor who was on the Exodus 1947. Her father took the pictures, capturing a corner of history that we can appreciate today. Here is a taste of this outstanding collection.



The Exodus 1947 in Haifa port after it was battered by British destroyers. After World War II, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust had nowhere to go. They were sent to Displaced Person Camps across Germany and Austria where they were treated as refugees and received medical care. Many wanted to re-start their lives by immigrating to Palestine. But Palestine was controlled by the British who allowed in only a specified number of Jews per year. It was a number far too small to accommodate the need so Jews decided to run the British blockade. The Exodus 1947 carried over 4,500 Holocaust survivors from France to Palestine, was intercepted and attacked by British war ships, towed into the port at Haifa at which time the survivors were forced onto three British prison ships.




This image depicts a group of Jewish refugees sharing a bowl of food on the Ocean Vigor which transported Holocaust survivors who had been on the Exodus 1947 from Haifa back to France. When it arrived in France, most of the refugees refused to disembark, despite the poor conditions on the ship. On September 8, 1947, two months after these refugees had left France, the ship arrived in Hamburg, Germany where military police and soldiers, equipped with tear gas and truncheons, forced them off the ship and sent them back to British military camps.


2011.20.38This photograph was taken at Poppendorf, a British Displaced Persons camp in Germany. Here a group of uniformed children are gathered around a Zionist flag marked with the words “Exodus 1947,” the corresponding Hebrew word for “exodus”, and the Jewish calendar year. Clearly, the experiences on the Exodus1947 and the desire to move to Palestine were still very present at this camp. Many of the children in this image had lost their parents and siblings in the Holocaust. Some children were waiting to reconnect with their surviving relatives in Palestine and others wanted to create new families there.




The wedding of Rena Olenick in Tel Aviv is pictured in this image. Olenick had been a refugee on the Exodus 1947 and consequently spent time in a European Displaced Persons camp. Like many Exodus 1947 refugees, she immigrated to Palestine, which later became Israel. She served in the Israeli Air Force prior to her marriage and built a family in Palestine. Today, Olenick lives in the Chicago area and is an active member of the Museum’s Speakers’ Bureau.




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