Few people seem to know of a museum in Oswego called Safe Haven. The museum rests on the grounds of old Fort Oswego and is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the roll it played during WWII, as well as the importance for our children to understand what war was really like for the children of Europe who were caught in the chaos.
This little known piece of history is also an interesting look into the policies of the United States on immigration, at a time when we set tight limits on the number of immigrants allowed to enter. The fact remained that as the Allied Forces swept through Europe and Nazi Concentration Camps were liberated, the many people who lived through the horrific experience had no place to go. Though countries all over the world took in DP’s (displaced persons) the United States did not.
With much political pressure, Roosevelt in 1944 allowed 982 Holocaust survivors and political prisoners of war who had been liberated or displaced to come the United States as his “Guests”. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes sent Ruth Gruber an assistant to escort these refugees to the United States and to record their stories.
The people who were chosen met a criteria that consisted of those who had helped in the Allied War effort, had lost relatives in the Holocaust, had family in the United States or had talents that could help run the American shelter. The selection also gave preference to those who had several family members with them.
By going to the museum and watching a wonderful short documentary on the people who Roosevelt allowed to come to the country and that highlights the few survivors who are left, mostly children. In an amazing way through their stories we get a glimpse of what life was like not only in war, but also at the Nazi death camps. They tell us in the first person what the trip on the ship Henry Gibbons was like. They give us a sometimes-humorous look at what they thought of Oswego when they first arrived at the camp.
So for a sad but worthwhile experience for the whole family visit Safe Haven. The many displays with pictures and the tour guide Lois bring this piece of history to life as no other museum can.
The museum is open year-round and for more information on its open times and directions go to www.oswegohaven.org.
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