‘Where the Holocaust Came to America’

OSWEGO, NY – Seventy-five years ago, on March 15, 1944, General Order No. 9, Headquarters, Second Service Command, Governors Island, N.Y., took effect and Fort Ontario was placed on “Standby.”

POST FIRE STATION – Only the civilian staff of the post fire department remained on duty at Fort Ontario after March 15, 1944. In this image “Shooter McCarthy” stands by another member of the fire department. This building is located near the city skating rink and is used for storage by the city parks department. (Donated by Bill McCarthy to collections of Fort Ontario State Historic Site.).

Army personnel had already been re-assigned and the few remaining civilian employees were let go in preparation for closing the oldest continuously garrisoned post in the United States.

“As they had done on earlier occasions when the army threatened to decommission Fort Ontario, Oswego business and civic leaders petitioned the federal government to reopen and garrison the post for its economic benefits,” said Paul Lear, Historic Site Manager of Fort Ontario State Historic Site. “However, this time Fort Ontario’s fate was sealed, as it was too small to meet the army’s training needs in the age of mobile mechanized warfare.

February 15 1944 Memorandum to All Employees

No one could imagine that a few months later the old army post would reopen and achieve its greatest period of historical significance as a refugee shelter where the “Holocaust came to America.”

Over the next few months of 2019, the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter 75th Anniversary Committee will prepare and present a series of events and activities to occur from the summer of 2019 through the spring of 2021.

These events and activities will reflect and interpret the history of the shelter, the experiences of the nearly 1,000 Holocaust refugees interned at Fort Ontario from Aug. 5 1944 to Feb. 5 1946, and the Oswego community that welcomed them.

For more information on the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, contact Lear at [email protected] or visit www.fortontario.com or www.safehavenmuseum.com.

The Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, located at 2 E. Seventh St. in Oswego, NY, interprets the history of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter.

Call (315) 342-3003 for public hours.

For visitor information and more Oswego County history, go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or call 1-800-248-4FUN.

New York State Parks generate $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs.

Information on any of these areas call (518) 474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com.
Photo captions
OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION TO CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES – Civilians assigned to Fort Ontario, before the fort was officially de-commissioned, received this notice 75 years ago from the federal government notifying them that the army post would be officially closed in March 1944. (Donated by Bill McCarthy to collections of Fort Ontario State Historic Site.)

1 Comment

  1. I remember going down to Oswego as a young child. It was close to my home to view it

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