America's WW2 refugee camp

Witness History

By BBC World Service

America's WW2 refugee camp

Wednesday, 18 November

In August 1944 President Franklin D Roosevelt agreed to allow nearly one thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe to come to America. They were allowed entry only as "guests", so as not to breach strict US immigration quotas in place during the whole of WW2. The refugees, who arrived on a troop ship from Italy, were housed in a former military barracks, Fort Ontario, near the city of Oswego in upper state New York. For those who'd recently been imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps in Europe, it was a traumatic experience to find themselves once again behind barbed wire. Mike Lanchin has been hearing the memories of two of the former refugees Elfi Hendell and Doris Schechter. Photo: A young refugee talking to local American children at Fort Ontario, Oswego, NY, August 1944 (Getty Images) (Thanks also to USC Shoah Foundation for audio archive)
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