Fred Grubel was born as Fritz Grübel in Leipzig in 1908. He attended school and university there, gaining a Doctorate in Law in 1930. He worked in law offices until he was prohibited from doing so in 1933 for being Jewish; he then took a position as leader of the Leipzig Jewish community. In 1938, Grubel applied for immigration visas for him and his family to move to the United States. While waiting for these applications to be processed, he was arrested and interned for five weeks in Buchenwald Concentration Camp. He immigrated with his wife and infant son to England in 1939 before going to the United States in 1940.
He worked in the Jewish community and became Executive Director of the Leo Baeck Institute in 1970, where he remained until 1994. Under his leadership, the LBI established itself as the internationally recognized resource for documentation on German-speaking Jewry before the Holocaust. Dr. Grubel's relations with so many of those who were forced to flee Hitler's terror confirmed the need to preserve the heritage that they left behind. He was committed to building the Institute's comprehensive library, archives, photo, and memoir collections; he was diligent in encouraging original research in all areas of German-Jewish history; he was eager to foster young scholars by giving them the benefit of his advice and experience.
Grubel died in New York in 1998.