World War II


ON AUGUST 5, 1944, Manya Hartmayer, a 21-year-old German-born Jewish woman who had survived five Nazi concentration camps, stepped down from a westbound Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railcar in Oswego, New York. Like all of the 982 refugees emerging into that sunlit Saturday morning, she had spent years on the run. For the next 18 months, she would know safety and stability at nearby Fort Ontario, the only Emergency Refugee Shelter the United States established during World War II.

Seventy-five years and a few weeks later, I retrace Manya’s path from the idle railroad tracks, around the cement foundation of a long-demolished factory, to where she entered the shelter at the corner of Oswego’s East Ninth and Mercer streets. The border of what is now Fort Ontario State Historic Site has retreated a hundred yards to

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