The Shelter and the Fence: When 982 Holocaust Refugees Found Safe Haven in America

Chicago Review. Jun. 2021. 176p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781641603836.
Gr 7 Up–Early in World War II, polls indicated that a very low percentage of Americans were in favor of admitting large numbers of immigrants to the United States. Due to the urging from some State Department officials, and some prominent U.S. Jewish leaders, President Roosevelt was finally persuaded to “do something” to alleviate the suffering and persecution of the Jews in Europe. His solution was to issue an executive order permitting 1,000 refugees to enter the country on a temporary basis. Entry was to be made by application, screening, the completion of required documents, and the signing of a pledge that the refugee would return home after the war was over. A recently closed and remodeled Army base near Oswego, NY, was home for the refugees for the next two years. Adults could have a six-hour pass to leave the fort, and students could attend public school. This limitation caused some resentment when residents learned that German POWs held in the central U.S. were permitted to leave confinement for the whole day to work in farm fields. The end of the war created a new dilemma. By this time, FDR was dead; and what does one do about a document that most regret signing, especially when one has no home to return to? In December of 1945, Harry Truman finally decided that the refugees could stay. The text is liberally illustrated with vintage photos, though there are occasional areas that could have used more explanation, such as why German POWs were on troop transports heading to the United States.
VERDICT This chapter in World War II history is a well-kept secret. Make this title a first choice.

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