The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 26.
The program includes speakers, exhibits, author/book signings, refreshments, lunch on Saturday, and a Sunday afternoon tour of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum. Advance reservations and payment are required. Walk-ins are not allowed.
Presentations will focus on the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter utilized during World War II, but will also highlight colonial maps, the War of 1812, archaeology of 18th century forts and the first capitol of New York State destroyed by the British in 1777.
The keynote speaker will be Rebecca Erbelding Ph.D, the nation’s top Holocaust historian and featured commentator on the Ken Burns documentary, “The United States and the Holocaust.” She is also the author of “Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe” and a historian and archivist at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Erbelding will present new research on how much closer the Fort Ontario refugees came to being returned to Europe than ever before realized. Under duress, they had signed documents agreeing to return to Europe after the war before they left Italy for the U.S. However, few had homes or families to return to and some faced persecution and death from former neighbors if they did. Learn more about their terrifying ordeal during Erbelding’s presentation.
Additional speakers on the Fort Ontario Refugee Shelter include New York State Parks Historian Edward Heinrichs with his presentation, “What People Said: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Oswego and the Fort Ontario Refugees.” His talk delves into community relations and contemporary Oswegonian opinions of the shelter.
In his talk, “Fort Ontario is My Camp: TR, FDR, and the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter,” New York State Parks Historian Paul Lear will discuss popular theories about how and why Fort Ontario became the only shelter for Holocaust refugees in the U.S. during WWII.
Parks-Canada Historian-Emeritus Rene Chartrand presents “German-Jewish Alien Detainees in Fort Lennox, Canada, 1940-1944,” which brings Fort Lennox, one of several refugee camps for European Jews located in Canada during WWII, into the narrative.
Additional presentations include “Private Pete Combats Illiteracy – The 1210th Special Teachers Unit at Fort Ontario, 1943-44,” in which Adrian Mandzy Ph.D., Professor of History at Morehead State University, Kentucky, and students Jeff Wyson and Christian Wright talk about the results of a Fall 2022 class project involving research into the history, personnel and artifacts of the 1210th S.T.U. at Fort Ontario meant to combat illiteracy in the troops.
Historian Richard Barbuto, Ph.D, an expert on the War of 1812, presents “Defending New York City in the Early Republic” and Rene Chartrand returns to the podium with “1700–1705 Fortification Maps and Plans by Wolfgang Romer in the British Library,” an illustrated talk on John Wolfgang Romer’s maps of New York in the Crown Collection which have recently been made available.
On Sunday morning archaeologist Joseph Diamond, Ph.D, and zooarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist Thomas Amorosi deliver “A House within a House: Archaeological Excavations inside the Senate House State Historic Site, Kingston, NY,” the first capitol of New York.
New York State Parks Historian and Archaeologist Michael Roets, now Central Region Historic Preservation Supervisor, describes the exciting features and artifacts found in a Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site with, “The Archaeology of Fort Hunter, NY, In the Wake of Hurricane Irene: Archaeological Evidence of Life at the 18th Century Fort Hunter and Lower Mohawk Castle.”
In “As to Not Be Discovered: Exploring the Battle of Fort Bull,” historian Arthur L. Simmons III of the Rome Historical Society, and archaeologist Brian R. Grills of SUNY Binghamton, discuss ongoing metal detector surveys, archaeological excavations and artifacts discovered at the former Fort Bull – a key storage depot on the Oneida Carry during the French and Indian War – by a team from the Anthropology Department of SUNY Binghamton.
The officers and board of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Refugee Shelter Museum cordially invite conference attendees to tour the museum as their guests on Sunday, March 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. Located at 22 Barbara Donahue Drive in the old army guardhouse, the museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter.
The Continental Army Collectors Inc. will be at hand with an exhibit of WWII artifacts, documents, uniforms, weapons and more.
Pre-registration and payment are required for Saturday and Sunday conference activities. Registration for both days, including lunch on Saturday, is $100. The fee to register for the Saturday program only, including lunch, is $70, and for the Sunday program only, it is $40. Student registration for both days, including lunch on Saturday, is $80. For the Saturday program only, including lunch, it is $60, and for the Sunday program only, it is $30. Payment can be made on the Friends of Fort Ontario website at www.historicfortontario.com.
For more information, to request a complete conference schedule, or to arrange for registration and payment by check or credit card, call 315-343-4711, or email [email protected] or [email protected].