A history of Nazi influence on Long Island at Camp Siegfried

Suffolk County Community College’s (SCCC) Selden campus recently displayed a month-long exhibit that relived the influence of Nazis on Long Island.

“Goose Stepping on Long Island: Camp Siegfried” provided an authentic collection of documents, photographs and even clothing worn by Nazi and American soldiers as well as concentration camp prisoners.

During the height of Adolf Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany during World War II, the Nazi following spread all over the world, including right here on Long Island.

Members of the German-American Federation parade through Madison Square Garden in February 1939 (Photo courtesy of University of Southern California Regional History Center)

Members of the German-American Federation parade through Madison Square Garden in February 1939 (Photo courtesy of University of Southern California Regional History Center)

Camp Siegfried was a summer camp in Yaphank that taught Nazi ideology and was operated by the German-American Federation. Formed in the 1930s, this organization’s goal was to promote a favorable view of Nazis.

“The purpose of the camp was to keep America out of the war and bring over the Hitlerian idea of racial politics to the United States,” said Steven Klipstein, the exhibit curator. “They held rallies for Nazi presence in the United States at Madison Square Garden with a picture of George Washington above the dais. It was reported that police restrained close to 80,000 anti-Nazi demonstrators.”

Predating WWII, German-Americans rode the Long Island Railroad from Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn all the way to Yaphank, and some of these people remained there permanently.

“Back when Camp Siegfried was established, people called it ‘Germantown’ because of the large German-American population,” said John Byrnes, a press representative of Councilwoman Connie Kepert (D-Brookhaven). “It is a rich part of our history, and the exhibit at SCCC is a great place for people who want to learn more about the history of Nazis on Long Island.”

While Long Island’s Nazi population declined after the war, the curiosity sparked by Camp Siegfried has not waned.

“Today, there isn’t much of a Nazi following in the area around Camp Siegfried,” said Barbara Russell, the Town of Brookhaven’s historian. “However, people have called for information and the location of the site, so they can look around and gather some knowledge.”

Though the exhibit closed Oct. 28, SCCC features a 5-year-old exhibit entitled “The Holocaust, Diversity and Human Understanding.” Guests can view a collection of over 200 items including original photographs, memoirs, documents, books and other artifacts.

Klipstein said that over 500 students—both of SCCC and local schools—have toured the exhibit.

For more information, contact the Suffolk Center on the Holocaust, Diversity and Human Understanding by phone at (631) 451-4700 or by email at chdhu@sunysuffolk.edu. Admission to the exhibit is free, but scheduling a tour is highly recommended.

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