From June 19-21, 2014, the Safe Haven Museum & Education Center and the Jewish Motorcycle Alliance will celebrate the 70th reunion of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego.
The event will feature a special celebration that is free to the public on Friday, as well as free bus tours of important sites and free tours of Fort Ontario on Friday and Saturday. Many other activities are planned including speakers like Irving Schlad a former refugee of the camp and a memorial dedication to Dr. William Schum, the centers first President.
We here in CNY seldom have an opportunity to learn information on the Holocaust first hand unless it is part of our family’s history, nor do we take the time to consider its implications in a way that perhaps could change how our children behave in adulthood. We do however have a great resource if we wish to have a ‘hands-on” learning lesson… that resource is the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego.
The museum does not dwell on the horrors of the Holocaust… though it is there, what it does is focus on is the USA and our response to the displacement of people as each of the WWII concentration camps were liberated by our troops. The short 37-minute documentary actually allows children who lived through the Holocaust tell their story in a humanistic and sometimes humorous way… they having been dropped from the horrors of war into a Displaced Person Camp at Fort Ontario. It also gives us hope as they explain the kindness of the Oswego people and its children.
This little known piece of history is also an interesting look into the policies of the United States on immigration, at a time when we set tight limits on the number of immigrants allowed to enter. The fact remained that as the Allied Forces swept through Europe and Nazi Concentration Camps were liberated, the many people who lived through the horrific experience had no place to go. Though countries all over the world took in DP’s (displaced persons) the United States did not.
With much political pressure, Roosevelt in 1944 allowed 982 Holocaust survivors and political prisoners of war who had been liberated or displaced to come the United States as his “Guests”. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes sent Ruth Gruber an assistant to escort these refugees to the United States and to record their stories, which she wrote about in her book “Haven”.
For more information on the event go to the website http://www.safehavenmuseum.com