New York Post columnist Samuel Grafton (1907-1997) was a strong proponent of U.S. government action to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.
In the spring of 1944, Grafton authored a series of columns advocating what he called “free ports” for Jewish refugees. “A ‘free port’ is a small bit of land, a kind of reservation, into which foreign goods may be brought…for temporary storage…without paying customs duties,” Grafton explained. “Why couldn’t we have a system of free ports for refugees fleeing the Hitler terror?….We do it for cases of beans…it should not be impossible to do it for people.”
Grafton’s columns were syndicated by the New York Post and appeared in 40 other newspapers across the country, with a combined circulation of more than 4 million. The articles generated numerous sympathetic editorials in major newspapers and magazines, and helped win public endorsements for the free ports proposal from prominent religious, civic and labor organizations.
In the end, President Roosevelt agreed to only one such “free port,” admitting 982 refugees in August 1944 and housing them in an abandoned army camp in upstate New York.