Boys at the youth camp at Camp Siegfried in  1937.

Boys at the youth camp at Camp Siegfried in  1937. Credit: Longwood Public Library’s Thomas R. Bayles Local History Collection

Don't color Yaphank residents same way

I am familiar with the history of Camp Siegfried ["Recalling a dark time in LI's past," fanfare, Nov. 20]. I have studied it and have taken rides through the area while teaching students about the past. What troubles me is that it was mentioned twice that historians question how Yaphank should reckon with the past. History should be looked at from the time period from which it was written about. The behavior exhibited then, while not supported by me or current Yaphank residents, was a plan that made sense to the organizers because of the lake area typical to their German homeland. A man who performed heroic actions, Gustave Neuss, should have a plaque or statue erected for him. The people of Yaphank do not deserve to be colored by the same pen describing the Nazis. The premise that the darker moments of history should be reckoned with today might be OK, but certainly not that the folks of Yaphank have anything to atone for.

Rich Weeks, Middle Island

Learning Long Island history is especially interesting for those born, raised, living and working here. Most stories have positive connotations, but some are less flattering, like this one about Camp Siegfried.

In the 1970s, I met Ira Rogers, of Patchogue, who told of his Camp Siegfried experience with the Bund. In the mid-1930s, Rogers had an architectural degree but could not find suitable work amid the Great Depression. He was eventually hired as a Brookhaven Town building inspector. His first assignment was to visit Camp Siegfried in Yaphank to issue a citation for its lacking a building permit. His visit was not cordial, with threats that included physical harm and verbal abuse. His wife, Alma, insisted that he resign as inspector despite the Depression job market. Rogers later worked for the Patchogue Electric Light Company, designed its East Main Street headquarters and other assignments, all with mutual appreciation that was quite a contrast to his first experience at Camp Siegfried.

Bob Becher, Bayport

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