OSWEGO – Tune in to your local PBS station on Tuesday, November 20 for “We’ll Meet Again,” a television series hosted by Ann Curry.
This week’s program features Holocaust survivors and includes a story about a former resident of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, now Fort Ontario State Historic Site.
Filmed in part at the fort last July, the show begins at 8 p.m.
“Fort Ontario was the only camp in the United States for victims of the Holocaust during World War II,” said Fort Ontario Historic Site Manager Paul Lear. “Refugees were here at the invitation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an effort to convince reluctant Allied countries to also accept and aid refugees. Before boarding a ship to America, the refugees were required to sign documents assuring their return to Europe at the end of the war.”
To read about other refugee memories, follow the link below
From August 5, 1944, to February 3, 1946, nearly 1,000 refugees lived within the fenced-in enclosure of the recently abandoned army post on the windswept shore of Great Lake Ontario in Oswego, N.Y.
While awaiting a decision on their ultimate fate, the refugees, who came from 18 different countries and spoke 21 different languages, became Americanized.
They learned new customs and to speak English.
They also made new friends at the shelter, with students at local schools, and within the Oswego community.
Many refugees had babies, some refugees died, and throughout their 18-month internment they gained local and national support.
The end of the shelter came quickly, only weeks after President Harry S. Truman’s December 22, 1945 announcement about post-war refugee policies in Europe which allowed the Fort Ontario refugees to enter the U.S. under existing quota limits.
In the rush to process visa applications, update passports, find sponsor families and communities willing to accept them, and in the hectic years when they were adjusting to life in America following the closure of the shelter, contact was lost between refugees, camp administrators, and the local community.
“Now, after 74 years, one of the Fort Ontario refugees will be reunited with an important person from their past thanks to this show,” said Lear.
The “We’ll Meet Again” series focuses on events that changed the world and people who changed each other.
Each episode features two stories of people searching for someone in their past who changed their life.
Fort Ontario State Historic Site is located at the north end of East Fourth Street and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum is at the north end of East Seventh Street in Oswego.
For more information or public hours, call the fort at 315-343-4711 and Safe Haven at 315-342-3003.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites which are visited by 60 million people each year.
A recent study found that New York State Parks generate $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs.
For more information on any of these recreation areas call 518-474-0456, visit www.nysparks.com, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.