Safe Haven 50th Anniversary Reunion Video Collection

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On August 5-7th 1994 a 50th reunion was held for Safe Haven refugees and their families at the SUNY Oswego campus (Oswego, NY). The reunion was organized by Safe Haven Inc, a non-profit organization raising money to establish a permanent refugee museum at Fort Ontario. The reunion included religious services at Temple Adath Israel in Oswego, interviews, a dinner - dance, and three panel discussions held on the SUNY Oswego campus. The interviews were conducted Saturday, August 6th, 1994. Several were conducted by Safe Haven Inc. President Scott Scanlon. The refugees describe their hardships in Europe during WWII, their journey aboard the Henry Fitzgibbons, life in Oswego and at the refugee camp. They also discuss their lives after they became United States citizens.


The following video interviews were digitized from archival VHS tapes and converted into iTunesU files by two Syracuse University interns at Penfield Library in 2012.  These complement Safe Haven audio files and the Safe Haven bibliography.

Sources:
Wilensky, Joe. "Wartime comrades reunite." The Palladium - Times 6
Aug. 1994: 1+. Print.

The Arnstein Family (Eva and Paul), recall fleeing their home in Zagreb, Yukoslavia on a fishing vessel first to British occupied Italy, then aboard the Henry Gibbons to Oswego They also recall the overwhelming feeling of relief at finally being safe. In Oswego they quickly became friends with fellow refugees from Yukoslavia. The Arnsteins fondly recall Oswego residents throwing gifts to them over the fence when they arrived, as well as the teachers at the Oswego High School. Eva also recalls being in the girl scouts.


Rena Block, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp from Sarajevo, recounts her family's escape to Italy following the Nazi's invasion of Zagreb in 1940, their experience in Italy, first living free and then in internment camps, and their being selected for Safe Haven in the U.S. She discusses life on the ship and the new foods she experienced. She recounts her memories of the time she spent in the camp, including the generosity of the people of Oswego, recreational activities, and going to school. She talks briefly about her life after Oswego, her family's losses, and being grateful to those who helped her family in Europe during the war.


Fred Bohm, whose parents were residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp, was in the U.S. army after fleeing Vienna ahead of his parents. He describes how his parents came to be in the camp, how he discovered that they were in the U.S., and his one-month stay in the camp visiting them. He discusses his children's interest in their grandparents' story, particularly after his daughter heard Ruth Gruber speak in San Diego.


The Bokros Family (Nelly Bokros Tahlhimer, Paul Bokros, and Mira Bokros Helpern), residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp from Balgrad, Yukoslavia recount their fond memories of life in Oswego. They discuss the importance of their time in the Oswego High School and the Oswego State Teacher's College to their futures and subsequent patriotism.  They also describe the trip over and their first encounter with a grapefruit, being sea sick, and air raids.

Manya Breuer and Rolf Manfred, were both residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp.  Manya speaks of the two years she spent in concentration camps and prisons, prior to her arrival in Oswego. She describes the sense of relief and hope upon arriving, being married in the camp, and having her first child in Oswego in the military hospital. Rolf recounts his memories in Fort Ontario, his initial feelings, attending Oswego High School, and socializing with other teenagers.

Frances Marion Brown, an Oswego resident, shares her memories of the refugees in the Safe Haven Refugee Camp as a volunteer. She discusses teaching English to the adults in the camp, and the major role Charles E. Riley, the superintendent of schools, played in the program. Frances also describes how much the refugees enjoyed being in residents' homes and the stories they shared with her and others.

Esther Danon and Sarah Meller, refugees at Safe Haven, share their memories of the camp and life in the barracks. Esther decribes her wonderment at the sheer amount of snow in Oswego, her involvement in the girl scouts, and winning a package that was sent back to her sister in Yukoslavia. Sarah recounts her memories of attending school in Oswego, the new and abundant food, and her grief over president Roosevelt's passing.


Irene Danon, a resident of the Safe Haven Refugee camp from Yugoslavia, describes her father's escape from a death camp, the 2 ½ years her family spent hiding out in Yugoslavia and coming close to death in a bombing and shooting, and their lives in Italy before arriving in the U.S. She talks about her impressions of the camp and of Oswego, and she describes her survivor's guilt and her role in life to pass on love and positive thinking.


Margaret Fay and Irene Reinsdorf, were residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp.  Margaret describes her flight through Europe from Czechoslovakia, and the journey aboard the Henry Gibbons to Oswego. She remembers having malaria when she arrived, having her second child in Oswego, and the surprise and joy she felt meeting Mrs. Roosevelt. Her daughter Irene was born in Oswego and she speaks about how privileged and thankful she is that her family was chosen to come to the US.

 

Margaretta Fisse, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp from Slovania, discusses her first impressions of the camp, which were initially negative because it was surrounded by a fence, and her time in the camp, including recreational activities and school. She discusses the theatre and music productions performed at the camp, lead by Charles Abeles and Leon Levitch. She describes Safe Haven as a stepping stone to life in the U.S. and expresses her appreciation for being here.

 

Fred Flatau, a refugee from Berlin, Germany, recounts his family's long passage to Oswego from Italy aboard the Henry Gibbons. He describes his shock when he witnessed the American sailors dumping left over food into the sea, and an air attack. He discusses his arrival in NYC and attending St. Paul's Catholic School during his stay at Safe Haven.

The Frajerman Family (Rachel Shreibman, Sam, Jacob and Harry), residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp from Italy, talk about their journey to Oswego, their memories of the camp, and their families as of 1994. Harry (the youngest) was born at the camp.

Neti Fredricks, a resident of the Safe Haven Refugee camp, shares her and her mother's memories of the townspeople of Oswego throwing toys over the fence to her when they arrived, and Eleanor Roosevelt's visit. They also recall the harsh winter in Oswego, compared to those in Italy. She talks about her mother teaching other refugee women how to sew. Neti describes her family's travels through multiple states in the U.S.

The Gal Family (Charlotte, Regina, and Albert), residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp describe their flight from their home in Paris to Italy, then ultimately to the United States. Charlotte and Albert reminisce about how much fun they had with their friends, attending school, the snow, and their pet cat. Charlotte remembers meeting Eleanor Roosevelt and having a full conversation in French with her. They also speak of their surprise at the abundance of food and their inability to eat much after so long without.

Hedv Gaon, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp describes her time spent in the camp, coloring and doing arts and crafts, and starting school in Oswego.

Mona Lisa Gioconda, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp who was born in Italy of German parents, discusses the circumstances leading to her arrival to the U.S.: her Protestant father's and Jewish mother's banishment from Germany, life in France, escape to Italy, and life in an internment camp there. She describes Oswego as a respite, and recounted her school and recreational experiences at the camp. She talks about her family members' lives after Oswego, and her own, including dancing under Isadora Duncan's daughter, Maria-Theresa, and studying with Ayn Rand. She speaks about Dr. Esther Morrison's Quaker mission work at the camp and her later work in Chinese history at Howard University. She reflects on the meaning of the 50th anniversary celebration of Safe Haven.

 

Nevenka Gould, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp, fled her home in Zagreb, Yukoslavia to Italy, then to NYC. She talks about the joy she felt entering the New York harbor, of all the spectacular neon lights, and then her shock at seeing the wire fence around the camp. She recalls attending school and participating in clubs, and piano and art lessons. Nevenka mentions that they were already liberated when they were living in Italy. However, her father had always spoken of moving to the US or to Canada, so when the opportunity was presented they took it.

Walter Greenberg, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp discusses how his father helped smuggle Jews out of Yukoslavia, was eventually arrested and how they escaped on a Chinese exit visa to Africa. He talks about how they spent time in a concentration camp in Africa until they were sent back to Italy. From there they were put into another concentration camp in Vera Monte, where his mother contracted malaria. He details their escape and subsequent flight from a particular German general and how the compassion of two Italian policemen allowed his father to escape once more. He also describes his disappointment of once more being placed behind a fence upon their arrival, but remembers that the community was very friendly and he enjoyed attending school in Oswego.

Ruth Gruber worked for the US. Department of Interior and helped bring the Safe Haven Refugees to the U.S. She describes the fear that many felt at the first sight of the barbed wire fence around the camp, and the generosity of the community who brought clothes and toys for them. She recounts the distress they felt at the thought of being sent home, and the work her and Carl Ickes did to allow the refugees to remain in the U.S. She mentions the marriages and children that were born in the camp, the different religious services for the refugees, and a few sad memories of the guilt some of the refugees carried with them for leaving their families behind. Ruth describes the camp as a microcosm of America, and the sadness that only a thousand were saved when many more could have been.

Tamar Hendel, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp shares her memories of leaving her home in Italy and living in Oswego. She describes the relief she felt at finally being safe, not having to hide, and being able to attend school. She recalls swimming in the lake, joining the girl scouts, learning how to read English, and attending a few parties while in Oswego.

David Hendell,  a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, describes the circumstances which lead to his family's arrival at the camp, including escape to Italian-occupied Yugoslavia and then to Italy. He talks of learning about the Safe Haven voyage, and then about his time at Oswego, what he calls "the pause that refreshed." He describes his memories of the living in the camp, his experience attending school in Oswego, and Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to the camp. He credits the camp experience for his gradual introduction to American society, and for the feeling that anything is possible.


Elsie Hendell and Dora Ostberg, were residents of the Safe Haven Refugee camp as teens. They talk about the crowded conditions aboard the Henry Gibbons, the German Air raid over sea, and the new foods they were introduced to. They describe their excitement at coming to the U.S. and being free. They speak of how they were selected to come over from Italy and had family already in the U.S. Elsie and Dora met at the camp and have been friends since. They remember their time in Oswego as being pleasant and having profound influence on their future successes. They recall the fun activities they participated in at the camp, their new friends, attending school, and learning how to swim. Dora also describes her father's angst over losing the authority he had in Europe.

 

Tina Chernick Jordan, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp born in Vienna, describes the events leading up to her family's arrival in Oswego: their escape to Italy in 1939, and their life in Genoa, an internment camp, and then the already-liberated Ferramonti concentration camp, where her father applied to come to the U.S. She recounts her first impressions of the camp and describes her life at the camp as a student at Oswego State. She reflects on the meaning of the Safe Haven experience.

 

The Kabiljo Family (Sherry, Leon, and Silvia), residents of the Safe Haven Refugee camp, fled from Yukoslavia. Mr. and Mrs. Kabiljo were newlyweds and had their daughter Sylvia while at the camp. They describe their happiness at finally being free and safe.

Simon and Flora Kalderon, are siblings from Yukoslavia whose family fled to Italy and then later to the Safe Haven refugee camp.  They describe the fun they had going to school, playing around the lake, and the cold winter. They remind everyone that they were only a select lucky few. They describe how many of their relatives are still facing hardship in Europe, and the contributions that many of the refugees have made to our country.

Steve Katter and Elsie Warren, came from Italy to America aboard the Henry Gibbons. Elsie helped in the kitchens while in the Safe Haven refugee camp. When the camp was shut down her family went to Canada and immigrated from there afterwards. They moved to NYC where Elsie and her mother made and modeled hats, making $25 a week. Steve remembers trying a tangerine for the first time in Niagara Falls, his enduring love for them, and shares some of his memories of life at the Safe Haven.

Eva Kaufman, a resident of the Safe Haven refugee camp from Yugoslavia, recounts her memories of her arrival at camp, the events leading up to the boarding of the Henry Gibbons, and her trip to the U.S. on the ship. She remembers a feeling of safety and the wonderful food, which are contrasted with her recent experience in Europe. She discusses the time she spent in quarantine in the Oswego Hospital with scarlet fever, social and recreational activities at camp, her experience attending school in Oswego, and the visit to camp by Eleanor Roosevelt, whom she remembers talking with. She talks about her family's life after the camp, and reflects on the generosity and kindness of the people of Oswego.

 

Edith Bronner Klein and Lillian Bronner Glass, were both residents of the Safe Haven Refugee camp from Hungary. Their family was caught and jailed after attempting to sneak across the Yukoslav border, and later were snuck into the Italian occupied area of Yukoslavia. They describe the relief they felt in Oswego, the opportunities given to them, and the friendships forged there. Edith describes her time working as an assistant in the camp hospital and both share memories from after the war when they were allowed to stay in the states, and to work and attend night school.

William and Herman Kremer, were residents of the Safe haven Refugee camp from Yukoslavia. There first time being behind a wire fence was in Oswego, yet they recall the friends they made, attending school, activities in the camp, and sneaking under the fence to play in the city of Oswego.

Harold LaTulip, was a resident of Oswego when the refugees arrived. His father was a doctor and attended to some of the refugees. He remembers throwing blankets and canned goods over the fence when the refugees first arrived and their appreciation. He recalls going to St. Paul's Academy with some of them, having some of them visit his home, and playing with them.

Edward and Leon Levitch, residents of the Safe Haven Refugee camp escaped their homeland in Yukoslavia to Italy and ultimately to the U.S. They describe their journey through Europe evading the German forces and Edward remembers his near scrapes with death at the hands of the Nazis. They discuss the different effects of their experiences on each member of their family.

David and Zdenka Levy, residents of the Safe Haven refugee camp came from Yukoslavia. David describes his memories of persecution in Zagreb. He also discusses his escape to Italy for about a year, where he was forced to flee once more from Nazi forces, until he was invited to Oswego. Zdenka recalls her time in a concentration camp in Vera, Monte, Italy until she was rescued and given the opportunity to board the Henry Gibbons with her family. She worked at the Oswego Hospital as a nurse with her first husband, who was a doctor.  She also met her second husband, David Levy at the hospital. David describes his meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt at the camp and his opportunity to attend the Oswego State Teacher's College.

Katie Morovich, a resident of the Safe Haven Refugee camp shares her memories of her journey from Europe to the camp. She describes her relief upon reaching the camp, the new foods she was exposed to, and the beauty school she attended while at there.

Anthony Murabito, a resident of Oswego describes his experiences with the children from Europe in the Safe Haven refugee camp in the three weeks he worked as a substitute math teacher at the Oswego High School. He speaks of the resentment felt by many of the adult refugees at being fenced in and not allowed to leave the camp. Murabito also speaks of his feelings during and after a visit to Dachau Germany and the residents' denial of having knowledge of the existence of the concentration camp there.

Geraldine Rossiter, was a resident of Oswego and remembers watching the refugees arrive and sneaking into their midst with several of her friends as they entered. She recalls slipping in every single day to see the refugees, listening to their stories, watching their plays, and sneaking them out to Rochester. She also recounts the thoughts of many of the towns-people who believed the refugees were living lavishly in the camp, even though it wasn't so.

Ruth and Seward Salisbury, were residents of Oswego when the refugees from Europe came to Safe Haven. Seward was an English Professor at the college and the senior advisor. They recall a party held at their house in honor of the graduating seniors (including several refugees), French classes at their house, and other social activities with the refugees.

Ruth Walterstein Samule, fled to the United States and stayed with family already residing here, but her mother and brother went back to Germany. Her mother and brother escaped into Yukoslavia until they were captured by Nazi forces, and later snuck into Italy. In Italy they hid with a family, until Hitler marched into North Italy and they were then brought to the concentration camp in Vera Monte. Ruth meanwhile married an American officer who was sent into Italy, where he found her parents and arranged for their travel to Safe Haven. She describes her convoluted feelings when she was reunited with her parents and brother after 18 years, and their difficulty coming to terms with the horrors they had witnessed.

The Sternthal Family (Erwin), Erwin left Vienna with his father, while his mother and brother remained there until 1939. His brother went to England, while the rest of them were together in Antwerp, Belgium. His parents were put into multiple concentration camps, while Erwin was put in a children's home. He was smuggled into Switzerland by the Jewish organization, until the end of the war. While traveling through France his parents were separated. His Father stayed with family in Nice, France while his mother went into the Vatican in Rome, until 1944, when she was able to come to the Safe Haven refugee camp. Erwin describes how one by one his family immigrated to the U.S. and were eventually all reunited.


Thea Weiss Sanders, a resident of the Safe Haven Refugee camp recounts her memories of her escape from Yukoslavia in December 1941 to Italy, then her journey to Oswego, NY in 1944. She recalls meeting Mr. Faust, the Principal of the Oswego High School when he visited the camp to see how many eligible children there were to attend the high school. She remembers her time there fondly, and the happiness she felt when her family learned they would be allowed to remain in the U.S.

Mae Tompkins, was a resident of Oswego, NY when the refugees came to Fort Ontario. Mae and her husband frequently had Manya and Ernst Breuer as guests in their home. The couple shared their wishes to be married and their experiences in Europe. Mae recalls buying the couple a ring, enabling them to be married at the camp. Mae recalls visiting the barracks and being entertained by the refugees as well.

Steffi Steinberg Winters, a resident of the Safe Haven Refugee camp recalls her voyage aboard the Henry Gibbons from Naples, Italy to the United Sates. She shares her memories of attending high school in Oswego, the activities within the camp, and interactions with the people of Oswego. She shares pictures of herself, other refugees and the principal of the Oswego High School, Ralph Faust.

Kostia Zabotin, a resident of the Safe Haven Refugee camp from Germany, recalls his disappointment of seeing the barbed wire fence and the camp they were to stay in after 3 years of living in the Vera Monte concentration camp. He recounts his experiences attending high school in Oswego, sneaking under the fence and playing with the children of Oswego, and his assimilation into the United States.

Jane Zaia, was a nurse in the Fort Ontario hospital and recounts her memories treating the refugees at Safe Haven. She speaks of Eva Kaufman, a child who came down with scarlet fever during her stay in the camp, and her father who was a photographer who remained in Oswego after the camp was shut down. She shares her admiration for the bravery and strength of the refugees, and the way they all helped each other.  She remembers a particular incident after the closing of the fort, when her daughter invited "Fort Ontario Albert", the son of Mr. and Mrs. Silver (two refugees who remained in Oswego after the camp was closed) to her 4th birthday party.

Saturday Dinner-Dance
, (Scott Scanlon, Rabbi Daniel Jazer, Rosemary Nesbitt, David Hendell, Ruth Gruber, Spirit of Song, William Goldstein, Leon Levitch ). Scott Scanlon introduces the other Dinner-Dance speakers. Then Rabbi Daniel Jazer delivers and oration about Jewish history, and the trials they suffered in WWII.

  • Scott Scanlon speaks about WII and his personal feelings on the subject. He mentions how he had never heard of Safe Haven until he arrived in Oswego, and his and others efforts to create the Safe Haven Museum.
  • Rosemary Nesbitt, a local historian of Oswego, gives a history of Oswego and the community's humanitarianism, the triumph of the human spirit, and the omission of women from the history accounts.
  • David Hendell describes his time hiding in Europe, the lives of the refugees in the Safe Haven refugee camp, and the effects it had on their lives.
  • Ruth Gruber shares her memories aboard the Henry Gibbons with the refugees, and how she came to have such a profound role on the operation.
  • William Goldstein then speaks about his musical, Oswego. The ensemble Spirit of Song performs parts from the musical Oswego.
  • Lastly, Leon Levitch introduces his song, written in memory of a friend.



Panel Discussion #1 "Fort Ontario Refugee Shelter"(Ruth Gruber, Ivo Lederer, Steffi Winters, Donald Smart, Bernard Dubin), all share their memories of the camp, the town and how their lives were affected by their experiences.

Panel Discussion #2 "Where do we go from here?"(Scott Scanlon, Willard Schim, Dieter Ulrich) The panel members discuss the formation of the Safe Haven Museum, funding, difficulties, and accomplishments. There are several conversations between the audience and panel members.

Panel Discussion. #3 "Nazi Germany & the Holocaust" (Thomas Judd, Joseph Kalina, Myron Lieberman, Henry Cumoletti) reflect on the role of Germany in the Holocaust and discuss the horrors of the twentieth century in WWII at the hands of Hitler and his followers. Joseph Kalina describes his experiences as a fugitive in Slavakia and in a concentration camp in Germany. Henry Cumoletti speaks of his first hand knowledge of the Nuremburg Trials as a reporter. He describes the lack of emotion of many of those brought on trial, and he speaks some of the atrocities he heard about from the Nazis.