Friday, April 9, 2021

Holocaust to Haven to Home #SkywatchFriday #AtoZChallenge

Yes, I admit this is a weird combination, but today is both Skywatch Friday and "H" day for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  There is an important story connected with my theme, New York State, that needs to be told.

So, as you look at the sky, I hope you'll stay for the story of Safe Haven, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was yesterday.  The story of Safe Haven in Oswego, New York is part of the history of our country that many don't know, and should know.  I grew up in New York City and never heard of it until a couple of years ago.

Taken during a visit in September 2019

Welcome to Ft. Ontario State Park, Oswego, New York, near the shores of Lake Ontario.  Ft. Ontario has the distinction of having seen military service in every war our country has been involved in, up to and including World War II.

But it also completed a special mission that many people alive today are not aware of.

World War II created millions of refugees as war raged between the Nazis and the Allied Forces, including the United States.  In 1944, then President Franklin Roosevelt signed an order permitting a group of mostly Jewish refugees from Europe to come to the United States.  Other than the invite, they had no legal right to stay here.  In fact, they had to sign an agreement to leave our country at the conclusion of the war.

Some 982 refugees made the journey to Ft. Ontario and Oswego, New York.  There, they were to spend nearly two years in a type of limbo at the Ft. Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, as it was called.  It was the first, and only, refugee shelter set up during World War II in the United States.  

These refugees came mainly from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia and Germany.  Some of them had already been refugees for well over five years.  Some had been tortured.  All of them were hungry, malnourished, and scared.  The ship journey to the United States had left many of them with major seasickness.

At the camp, they lived enclosed by barbed wire.  They were "guests" and not permitted to work or leave the camp for the first month or so.  Eventually, the refugee children (all ages were at the camp, including children and the elderly) were able to go to school in Oswego.  Residents of the city brought the refugees food.  A couple got married.  Volunteers taught them English.  They published a camp newsletter for themselves.  They dreaded their first winter up in the snowbelt of New York State, but made their way through.

After World War II ended in 1945, the refugees' legal status remained doubtful, but eventually, they were allowed to stay in the United States if they wished.  The camp then closed in early 1946.  A 50th reunion was held in 1994 and a commemoration of the 75th anniversary was held in 2019 with 19 former refugees and their families.

Various oral histories and other documents are available online.

Lake Ontario, Oswego, September 2019

I will close today with a couple of Oswego sunsets.

A Humble end to a little known story.  Thank you for reading.

"H" day at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  My theme:  New York State.

Joining Yogi and other Skywatchers for #SkywatchFriday.


  1. February we visited the area to see the lighthouse, I want to return this summer. Safe Haven is an interesting story that few know.

  2. Thank you for sharing the story of holocaust and amazing photos.

    Have a great spring

  3. That was really interesting to read about, and I love the sunset shots!

  4. Another reason to visit! Thank you for this, Alana! Going now to do some more reading...

  5. I did not know about Safe Haven. Thanks

  6. I'd heard many stories about the holocaust, but this is a new one. I'm glad all who chose to got to stay.

  7. I didn't know about Safe Haven. I don't think we learned much in US History about WWII. Glossed over maybe. I'm glad they were allowed to stay if they wanted.

  8. This is a fascinating story, one I had never heard. But it also makes me sad that these survivors weren't immediately welcomed and brought into society. I know I didn't live at that time and didn't understand some of the reasons. But really? Our government in the beginning forced ships to go back, people to die. It was so wrong.

  9. What an amazing history, and kind of boggles the mind that so few people are aware. Thanks for this post!

  10. A tale of which I was unaware. Thanks for the share.

  11. I'm amazed. The only stories I heard were how the US refused to allow in Jewish refugees. At least this was something, but not nearly good enough.

  12. The story of Safe Haven was new to me - thank you so much for sharing it.

  13. So inspiring! These are the kinds of stories that need to be told and retold. Thanks for writing it!
    My Hair VS Brush is so silly by comparison!

  14. Loving your #SkywatchFriday

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and good luck with the rest of the challenge

  15. Interesting story. I wish we could come up with a better system to deal with refugees.

  16. I love stories like this!! Awesome. We in the USA think we are always heroes, we were less than heroic in some regards. Nowhere else I want to live though!!

  17. Alana,

    Great piece of history! I'm glad you decided to share this with us. I'm sure these poor souls felt immensely blessed to be away from the horrors of Europe during WWII even if temporarily placed behind barbed wire. Life was made better for them. I'm so happy they were allowed to stay in the US if they desired when the war came to an end. If you haven’t already, please check out my Looney Tunes' Henery Hawk Art Sketch when you get a chance, my friend. Happy A2Zing!!


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