Safe Haven Museum

Courtesy: Safe Haven Museum

Ruth Gruber died last week at 105. She was an accomplished journalist and humanitarian. But in Oswego she is remembered and celebrated for the role she played when the United States offered safe harbor to 986 European refugees during World War II.

Gruber worked for the department of the interior when she was chosen to escort the mostly Jewish refugees on their voyage to America. They were housed at Fort Ontario in Oswego for the remainder of the war. Eventually, Gruber championed the refugees' fight to gain American citizenship.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Ruth Gruber, who played a key role in helping Oswego’s Fort Ontario harbor nearly 1,000 refugees during World War II, has died. She was an accomplished journalist and humanitarian, but she is most fondly remembered in Oswego for the difference she made in the lives of the refugees she helped save. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Oswego County celebrated its bicentennial over the Independence Day weekend. A float with historic county officials glided through the annual Oswego parade, the Oswego Stamp Club sold special historic stamps noting the bicentennial and later in the day residents gathered at the historic Fort Ontario for a picnic and presentation.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

The National Park Service (NPS) has agreed to complete a reconnaissance study on Oswego's Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who pushed for the study, said it is another positive development in the community's attempt to elevate the two historic sites to national park status. He has authored a bill that, if passed, could make that a reality.

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

The House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources has approved a bill that would launch a study to determine if Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum in Oswego should be elevated to national park status.

The legislation, which was authored by central New York Rep. John Katko, passed unanimously out of the committee and now heads to the full House. The 260-year-old Fort Ontario has been involved in several major American wars and the Safe Haven museum commemorates the 986 Jewish refugees who were granted shelter at the fort during world war two.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO News File Photo

During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) urged his colleagues to designate Oswego's Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum to National Park status. The Republican congressman is sponsoring a bill that would trigger a study to determine if the historical sites are worthy of becoming part of the National Park system.

Beit Hatfutsut Museum / Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum

When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested recently that the U.S. should block Muslims from entering the country over fears of terrorism, he cited former President Franklin Roosevelt's infamous decision to place some Japanese citizens into internment camps following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. But, FDR also opened a different kind of camp in Oswego in spite of the anti-immigration sentiment from Congress at the time.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A group of volunteers in Oswego are working with state officials to elevate Fort Ontario and its Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum to a national, and even possibly global, status.

First constructed in 1759, Fort Ontario has undergone many changes in its history. It was defended and destroyed by both the British and the United States. Then during World War II, Fort Ontario became a refugee camp for European Jews and in 1953, it opened as a state historic site. Now, a grassroots campaign hopes to see the fort transform once again. 

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Beginning Thursday, the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego is celebrating the 70th anniversary of when 982 Jewish refugees were first housed at Fort Ontario.

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt allowed 1,000 Jewish refugees to enter the United States as guests, and they lived at the decommissioned Fort Ontario base in Oswego until 1946, when they were allowed to stay as American citizens or return home. The refugee camp, known as "Safe Haven," was the only location of its kind in the U.S.

Seventy years ago, nearly 1,000 European refugees came to Oswego to escape the Holocaust during World War II. Now the city's Safe Haven Museum is collecting and cataloging stories from those living in the city at the time, for what it calls the "Neighbors Project." The refugees, many of them Jewish, were housed at Fort Ontario from 1944 until 1946. The camp was the only one of its kind in the United States.