WXXI AM News

WATCH: Remembering the only U.S. refugee center for Holocaust victims

Apr 27, 2017

It’s been said that history has a way of repeating itself. The global refugee crisis of more than 65 million displaced people draws a correlation to one of the darkest times in human history. Today the world is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

As some nations open their borders to refugees escaping conflicts in their homelands, closer to home we remember our past when nearly a thousand refugees from Europe arrived in Oswego, New York in 1944.

The Holocaust refugees were brought to the US as guests of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They were a “token” group intended to be part of a larger plan to bring possibly hundreds of thousands of holocaust victims to what was called “safe havens” around the country.

That first group, more than 900 people, interned at the Fort Ontario army camp was also the last group offered a safe haven.

That story was documented 30 years ago in a Peabody award-winning WXXI production called Safe Haven. On this special edition of Need to Know we celebrate the anniversary of that film at a relevant time in modern history. Guests joining this show include: Paul Lewis - writer and producer of the 1987 documentary, Irving Schild – a Holocaust survivor and Safe Haven refugee in Oswego, and Helen Levinson – a Holocaust survivor from Poland who moved to Rochester after World War II.