Jun 10, 2019

Safe Have Refugee Camp in Oswego

Recently I attended a dinner theater presentation at the Oswego Foundry dealing with Safe Haven. The play was written by Michael Nupuf and Laura Lowrie and directed by Richard Mosher. It portrayed the life and times of the fictional Lefowitz family. However, it was similar to what many of 982 Holocaust refugees experience while at the Safe Haven on the
grounds of Fort Ontario.  I have read Ruth Graber’s book “Haven.” I think it should be compulsory reading for students in Oswego County and elsewhere.  During World War II Gruber was special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. She was assigned a secret mission to Europe to bring one thousand Jewish refugees and wounded American soldiers from Italy to the United States. I can’t imagine the trepidation the refugees felt coming to a new land, being loaded onto a train, and ending up in a place enclosed by fencing.  Surely, if had to be reminiscent of the concentration camp experience.  Some had been in camps but others had only heard about it.

Safe Haven was created in the midst of WWII and was the only
place in the United States that accepted Jewish refugees from the holocaust thus saving them from the concentration camps. There were ships of European refugees that were turned away by the United States and other countries. Most refugees wanted to stay in the United States when the war ended but since they had not entered the US in normal manner the decision was made to take them to Canada by bus and then process then
back into the US.  They became doctors, engineers, teachers, and followed other professions that, like many immigrants, were a benefit to American society. I am sure the play will be produced again in the future but until then take time to visit the Safe Haven Museum.

Are you a bystander or an upstander?  Most of us are bystanders.  I
first heard of the word “upstander” when I visit the Dallas Holocaust Museum.  They took an interesting approach to the Holocaust by featuring the events that occurred on one day in three different places. The museum’s slogan is “Be an Upstander not a Bystander.” They highlighted two acts of bravery and courage while at the very same time the
powerful decision-makers in the Allied governments remained indifferent. That day was April 19, 1943. In Poland the Jewish people had been confined to a ghetto. It was the Jewish feast of Passover, 1200 Jews armed with smuggled in pistols, rifles, a few machine guns, grenades and Molotov cocktails engaged in a battle with over 2000 Waffen SS soldiers who attacked with tanks, artillery and flame throwers. The Jews in Warsaw resisted for a total of 28 days.

On that very same day in Belgium three young men risked their
lives to rescue Jews from a deportation train bound for Auschwitz by forcing open the doors of several cars allowing some of the Jewish deportees to escape. Of the 1631 Jews on the deportation train 231 managed to escape. It was the only time during the Holocaust that a train was attacked on its way to one of the notorious camps. Meanwhile a group of representing the British and American government officials met in Bermuda and decided to do nothing about Jewish refugees until after the war. 
Albert Einstein: “The World is too dangerous to live in - not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”