Congressional Hearing Opens at Oswego; O’dwyer Demands Release of Refugees to Sponsors

Pointing out that the largest single category of refugees at the Oswego refugee shelter are stateless Jews originating in Austria, Germany and the Balkan countries, and that under present conditions they have no homeland to which to return, Brigadier-General William A. O’Dwyer, head of the War Refugee Board, today demanded that the Oswego refugees “be permitted to remain in the United States until the United Nations have settled the world problem of displaced persons.”

Gen. O’Dwyer voiced this demand in a statement he presented to a Congressional hearing which opened at Fort Ontario here today. The hearing is being conducted by the House Sub-Committee on Immigration under the chairmanship of Rep. Samuel Dickstein.

Testifying in his capacity as head of the War Refugee Board, Gen. O’Dwyer recommended that a program of “sponsored leaves” be established by the Department of Interior in cooperation with the Department of Justice and any other government agency concerned, under which the refugees at Oswego could be released from the shelter in the custody of relatives who are U.S. citizens and reliable private agencies which may offer to be sponsors.

“It is clear that the great majority of the refugees at Oswego do not have ‘homelands,’ Gen. O’Dwyer said. “In my opinion it would not be in accordance with the late President’s commitment and our government’s political and humanitarian policies, to return ‘stateless’ Jews arbitrarily to Germany and Austria or unwilling nationals to the countries of their citizenship. Conditions in Europe at present preclude the possibility of the immediate return of many of the people at Oswego and, more generally, the resettlement of most displaced persons. Finally, our national policies with respect to displaced persons should be determined and developed in proper relation to a United Nations solution of the problem.

“In the meantime every effort should be made to settle as many of the refugees in Oswego in permanent homes, anywhere in the world where they can and are willing to go. Toreturn these people to Italy on the formal consideration that this was the country from which they were shipped to Oswego, in my opinion, would not be in accordance with the President’s commitment. Such action would undoubtedly prejudice the action of other countries with large numbers of refugees, particularly the neutrals whom we urged to accept as many as possible while we were at war with Germany. It would not be in accordance with the objectives and ideals which motivated President Roosevelt to bring these people to a safe haven in the United States. The arbitrary return of these people to Italy would only serve the purpose of getting them out of the United States to some UNRRA camp where they might have to wait for years before final relocation,” Gen. O’Dwyer emphasized.

REFUGEE CHILDREN IN BOY SCOUT UNIFORMS TESTIFY; WILLING TO FIGHT FOR U.S.

This afternoon, 11 children from Fort Ontario dreased in their uniforms as members of Oswego Troop No. 23 of the Boy Scouts of America testified before the committee. Asked whother they wished to remain in the U.S. and whether they would be willing to fight for this country when they grow up, they all said “yes.” They were followed by other residents of the fort, both children and adults.

Edward Marks of the War Relocation Authority, who has been supervising the Fort Ontario shelter from Washington since its inception, gave the committee some statistics on the American relatives of the shelter’s residents. He said 180 rela tives were in the United States armed forces. Ninety-nine of the refugees have 117 close relations in the U.S., including husbands, wives, sons and daughters, 102 of whom are Amerian citizens. In addition, 246 shelter residents have 179 brothers and sisters here.

Mr. Marks pointed cut that 300 of the families at Fort Ontario had applied for U.S. visas before leaving Europe, and some already had such visas before being brought here. As a result of coming to the shelter they lost their seniority and would have to apply all over and go to the end of the waiting list should they be returned to Europe.

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