News 8 Archives: Shelter for Holocaust refugees

News 8 Archives

OSWEGO, N.Y. (WROC) — In August 1944, the U.S. government opened a shelter for Holocaust refugees. It was located an hour and a half outside Rochester, and to this day it remains one of the little told stories of World War ll.

75 years ago, an old army camp in Oswego was transformed into a shelter for Jewish families who escaped the Nazis. It was the only place of its kind in the country. Only 982 people were let in.

In 2001, work was underway to turn the entrance to Fort Ontario into a museum. At that time News 8 interviewed Ruth Gruber, the government employee who brought the refugees to the U.S. “Rochester was wonderful to us,” she said. “The Jewish community brought us a Torah for our first Friday Sabbath.”

Among those who supported the effort was the late Richard Rosenbaum of Rochester. Rosenbaum was a State Supreme Court Justice and once lead the state GOP. As a young boy, he helped welcome the refugees.

“The story of the shelter is an asterisk in the history of World War II,” he told News 8 in 2001. “I remember they had pitchers of milk on the table and people stood looking at the milk and the little children who were there, they were awed by all this food. It was a life-saving thing!”

75 years later, a memorial was held on the grounds of the camp.
Just a few of the original buildings still stand. The site is now an historic landmark for the role it played in saving lives.

The museum is called the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center. For information, click here.

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