The Story of America’s Only World War II Refugee Camp

Sept. 14 2020

In 1944, the Roosevelt administration—after much reluctance to make any special efforts to help Jews threatened with extermination in Nazi-dominated Europe—granted 1,000 Jews permission to enter the U.S. They would be interned in Fort Ontario in the upstate New York town of Oswego. Drawing in part on interviews with the refugee camp’s inmates, Keren Blankfeld writes:

Hundreds of [Jewish] refugees were interviewed across Italy, and 1,000 names were selected out of 3,000 applicants. Key requirements included no men of military age (who could otherwise be fighting among the Allies), no one with contagious diseases, and no separation of families. The official count of refugees who arrived in Oswego was 982, since some never showed up at the port. One baby was born during the journey, and he was dubbed International Harry by those on board.

Roosevelt’s invitation was not open-ended, though. The refugees signed statements agreeing to return to Europe when the war ended. They were in the United States under no official immigration quota, with no legal status. But they’d be safe.

When the war in Europe ended, a national debate raged over how to handle the millions of displaced people. Returning troops had trouble finding work, and anti-Semitism was rampant. The Oswego refugees had promised to return to Europe. Yet a vast majority had nothing to return to.

In late 1945, despite most Americans’ disapproval, President Harry S. Truman issued a directive requiring that existing immigration quotas be designated for war refugees. He specifically directed that Fort Ontario’s “guests” be given visas.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, Immigration, Refugees

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism