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January 12, 2018

The History of America's Holocaust Refugee Camp at Fort Ontario

OSWEGO - Fort Ontario State Historic Site Manager Paul Lear presents an illustrated lecture on the history of America's only Holocaust Refugee Camp, located at Fort Ontario in Oswego, N.Y. The program takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 27 in the large meeting room at G.S. Steamers Bar and Grill in the Quality Inn, 70 East First St., Oswego. Admission and parking are free.

Mr. Lear will document the history of the 75-acre Fort Ontario Military Reservation during the 18 months it served as the only camp in the United States for victims of the Holocaust during World War II. The Fort Ontario lecture is one of many International Holocaust Remembrance Day events occurring worldwide. International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established by the United Nations as a Memorial Day for victims of the Holocaust. It is observed annually on January 27, the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp of the war.

During the lecture, Lear will also explore President Franklin D. Roosevelt's reasons for choosing Fort Ontario and the War Relocation Board's (WRB) goals and objectives in creating the refugee camp. Lear will also speak on who, how, and why refugees were chosen to come to Fort Ontario, and what restrictions and conditions they lived under during the administration of the camp by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). He will also provide insights into everyday life and operations in the camp, and discuss the myths and realities of community-shelter relations. Lear will compare similarities and differences between Fort Ontario and WRA camps for Japanese-Americans in the western U.S., and camps for Japanese-Canadians and Resident Aliens in the U.S. and Canada. He will also outline events and circumstances leading to President Harry S. Truman's decision to close the camp and allow refugees to stay in the United States.

For details about the January 27 program, contact Paul Lear at (315) 343-4711 or paul.lear@parks.ny.gov. To learn more about the history of Fort Ontario as a refugee shelter, visit www.safehavenmuseum.com. For more information about the fort's 263-year history, special events, and activities, go to www.historicfortontario.com or www.nysparks.com or find them on Facebook.

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