Gloria Fredkove has no direct memories of her childhood before she was 5 years, but she knows that as a refugee to the United States, she is seeing many similarities to her experience in 1944 and that of those seeking asylum now.
“It was a different situation and time, but there are still some parallels about the way people seek asylum are being treated,” said Fredkove. “I always felt like the other.”
Fredkove a child-survivor of the Holocaust, will tell her story at Adath Jeshurun Congregation on April 14 at the program “Dangerous Mission: America’s Sole Rescue of 1,000 WWII Refugees.” Fredkove was one of about 1,000 Jewish refugees who was admitted into the United States in 1944 and housed at Fort Ontario in Oswego, N.Y. The former administration building at Fort Ontario became the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.
Fredkove was 15 months old when she made the journey from Italy on the USS Henry Gibbons with her brother, mother, and grandmother. All the refugees in Fort Ontario were expected to be forced to return to their home countries following World War II – as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had promised they would have to. President Harry Truman reversed Roosevelt’s order and they were allowed to stay.
The refugee experience is one that has stuck with Fredkove for her whole life, even without a direct memory of her time in Fort Ontario.
“It’s the experiences I grew up with and what it was like being a child that was a refugee. It always felt different,” he said. “It affected my brother and me in very permanent ways. The effects I lived with, but I don’t remember anything specific.”
Fredkove has been active in the Children of Holocaust Survivors Association in Minnesota and is on speakers’ list at the Jewish Community Relations Council where she talks to school classes about the survivors’ experience.
“The reason I do it is because the original survivors and few and far between and the ones still left are often not able to get around to speak,” she said. “The torch has been handed to me. It’s my obligation to survivors to tell their stories and keep them in people’s minds. So much of the news focuses on the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and there is a new generation of anti-Semites around the world. It’s very frightening. The way to counteract is by speaking and reminding people of why it happened.”
Fredkove’s talk on April 14 will be more than just her experience from 1944, but tying into current events.
“There are many [that think] people shouldn’t come in through our borders. I don’t share those views,” she said. “The Statue of Liberty is our symbol of freedom, and people should have a safe place to land. They should at least be treated humanely.”
The event is free to attend. Go to the event website for more information and to RSVP.