Former Holocaust refugees and their families were among the speakers at an event honoring the 75th anniversary of nearly 1,000 refugees arriving from Europe to Fort Ontario in Oswego during World War II. Fort Ontario was the only emergency shelter for victims of the Holocaust in the United States. 

Linda Cohen is the daughter of two refugees who came from Yugoslavia. She said the camp saved their lives.

Provided photos

Eva Mozes was 10 years old in May 1944 when she and her twin sister, Miriam, and their family were taken from their hometown in Romania to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

It was just three weeks before Allied forces would turn the tide of the war in Europe in their favor by storming the beach at Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6.

Eva didn't know about the invasion at the time. "But I sure wish that D-Day would have happened a month earlier," she said. "Maybe the Nazis wouldn't have been able to take us away."

Next week marks 80 years since Kristallnacht -- the Night of Broken Glass -- which is commonly considered the forerunner to the Holocaust. What have we learned since then?

We’re joined by two survivors of the Holocaust who share their remarkable stories, and how they think the lessons of history can apply to the challenges faced by refugees today. In studio:

The Rochester Jewish Film Festival kicks off next week, and one film tells the story of a local Holocaust survivor. Jack Feldman grew up in Poland and was sent to Auschwitz during the war. In the camp, he was known only by his number, A17606. 

The tattoo on his arm caught the attention of his great-grandson, Elliott Saiontz. Saiontz interviews Feldman in the film, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm.”

We get a preview of the film this hour from Feldman, Saiontz, and Feldman’s granddaughter, Stacey Saiontz. We also hear what else is in the lineup for this year’s festival. In studio:

  • Jack Feldman
  • Stacey Saiontz
  • Elliott Saiontz
  • Bonnie Abrams, director of the Center for Holocaust Awareness and Information at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester
  • Andrea Miller, director of the Rochester Jewish Film Festival

We hear the story of a local Holocaust survivor. Helen Levinson was born in Poland and was sent to a concentration camp during the war. She escaped with the help of a Nazi guard, but lost her parents and siblings.

Her remarkable story is part of a new play called "Survivors" at the Jewish Community Center. We hear Levinson's story in her own words. Our guests:

  • Helen Levinson, Holocaust survivor
  • Alexa Scott-Flaherty, actor who portrays Helen in the play, “Survivors”
  • Freyda Schneider, co-producer of "Survivors," and director of TYKEs at the Jewish Community Center

When we discuss the Holocaust and Nazi Germany’s tactics to create a so-called master race, we frequently talk about the atrocities committed in concentration camps. Holocaust survivors have come forward over the years to share their stories, with the hope that by understanding history, we can prevent it from repeating itself. But until recently, there were a number of stories that remained untold or at least, hidden. Those belong to the women who lived under Nazi rule — women whose reproductive rights were stripped away, and who became part of the Nazi Party’s systematic efforts to create an Aryan race.

Scholar Beverley Chalmers spent a decade researching sterilization, sex abuse, rape, and extermination in Nazi Germany for her book, Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women's Voices Under Nazi Rule. She says as difficult as those stories are to hear, we don’t have the right to tune them out. Chalmers is in Rochester this week for several lectures, but first, she’s our guest on Connections. 

WATCH: Remembering the only U.S. refugee center for Holocaust victims

Apr 27, 2017

It’s been said that history has a way of repeating itself. The global refugee crisis of more than 65 million displaced people draws a correlation to one of the darkest times in human history. Today the world is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

As some nations open their borders to refugees escaping conflicts in their homelands, closer to home we remember our past when nearly a thousand refugees from Europe arrived in Oswego, New York in 1944.

An old army base about 70 miles from Rochester was the only site in the United States to welcome refugees from Europe during the Holocaust. Fort Ontario in Oswego, an internment camp, became home to 982 refugees in 1944, but many people don't know its story or the history and politics behind the refugees' arrival. Now, Fort Ontario is back in the news: there's proposed legislation to make the site a national park. 

In 1987, WXXI produced a documentary about the camp. It's called Safe Haven. We honor the film's 30th anniversary and the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors by sharing their stories. Our guests:

  • Paul Lewis, writer, director, and producer of Safe Haven
  • Irving Schild, Holocaust survivor who lived at Fort Ontario
  • Warren Heilbronner, Holocaust survivor