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The Safe Haven Museum and Education Center preserves the memory of the only refugee camp established by the United States during World War II. The government program was called Safe Haven and the camp was set up on the grounds of the Army base, Fort Ontario. It opened in August 1944 and closed in February 1946. There were 982 refugees, the majority of which were Jewish and most came from Yugoslavia. After the war, they were eventually allowed to become U.S. citizens.

  • The Safe Haven Museum and Education Center
  • Interior view of the museum
The camp was surrounded by a fence and patrolled, so the refugees at first thought they were in a concentration camp. However, they soon realized they were in a safe place. That said, they were still frustrated. They were not given any official status, could not leave the camp and were told they would be returned after the war; their basic needs were the main concern. However, they were eventually given 6 hour passes to Oswego in September 1945 and others were allowed to visit the camp, one of whom was Eleanor Roosevelt who toured the camp that same month. Debra Groom. "65 years ago this summer, Oswego was safe haven for nearly 1,000 refugees -- mostly Jews -- fleeing World War II," The Post Standard. 7-26-09.