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OSWEGO — A pair of siblings who spent time at Fort Ontario as refugees fleeing the Holocaust in the mid-1940s recently returned to the city, touring the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, speaking at a fundraiser for the museum and receiving recognition from city officials.

Jack Bass and his younger sister Gloria Fredkove were brought to Fort Ontario as children in 1944 as part of the nearly 1,000 European refugees who found shelter from the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. Returning to Oswego for the first time last weekend, the siblings visited the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum and city hall before speaking at the Sunrise Rotary’s fourth annual dinner-and-a-movie fundraiser, which benefited the museum.

Born in Switzerland in 1932, Bass said the Europe he left behind was one of destruction, with people searching for scraps of food and in shock about the events that were transpiring around them. At the age of 12, Bass said he was “jumping for joy” when he and his family reached the United States.

Mayor Billy Barlow said it was “an honor” to meet the siblings Friday, and noted their visit helped bring attention to the Safe Haven museum, Fort Ontario complex and “all the rich history” in the city that is often overlooked. Barlow said the city has an obligation and duty to promote that history, including Safe Haven.

“We need to do our part in telling our story and promoting Fort Ontario and Safe Haven and other historical components that we have in our community,” the mayor said. “Safe Haven — the museum — tells a story that is extremely unique to the city of Oswego, the only place in America during World War II that allowed refugees escaping the Holocaust to seek refuge.”

Prior to coming to Fort Ontario, Bass said the family was in a displaced persons camp in small town called Potenza in Southern Italy. Bass said the family was also incarcerated in a camp in Italy known as Ferramonti that was jointly supervised by German and Italian forces.

“I was looking at pictures of the people I came with, and yet I didn’t remember it first-hand because I was only a little over a year old when we arrived,” she said, adding the visit was “very meaningful” and the museum helps “to keep history alive.”

Safe Haven Museum President Kevin Hill called Fredkove and Bass “incredible,” and said it’s always special to have refugees who lived through the experience visit the museum. Fredkove and Bass arrived at the museum as a group of visitors were touring the facility, Hill said, and as the visitors were finishing their tour the siblings spent some time giving them a first-hand account of their time at Safe Haven.

“When that happens there’s an energy in the museum and it brings life to the story,” Hill said. “It brings a perspective that you just can’t get from the two-dimensional images and the writings on the wall, and it’s just incredible every time.”

Refugees being allowed shelter in Oswego was a service to history, a service to humanity and something the residents of the city should be proud of, Hill said. The visit from Fredkove and Bass and other refugees reminds the museum staff and officials of the organization’s mission.

Fredkove, who often tells her story to students of all ages, said Holocaust denials are “pure evil” and no amount of evidence or dialogue is likely to change their mind. For the majority of the world population, it’s important to connect with the past and learn from history, she said, especially at a time when anti-Semitic beliefs are resurging in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

“There’s a time of healing and there’s a time of forgetting and forgiving,” he said. “I’m not going to be bitter, I’m not going to call names, and I’m not going to point fingers — that solves nothing. The whole idea is to bring peace to this planet.”

Just 15 months old when her family came to Oswego, Fredkove doesn’t remember anything from her time at Fort Ontario, but she said it’s still part of her history and the refugee shelter was “instrumental” in saving her and her family from uncertainty and possibly death.