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Westchester’s Real Life War Games, Plus More County Questions And Answers

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Q: Recently, I was traveling up Route 6 just north of Peekskill and I came across a sign for Camp Smith. I’ve heard that this is far more than just an outpost of the New York Army National Guard. A friend told me that they play war games there. Could that be true?

—Deanna Cartucci, Cortlandt Manor

A: It is true—that is, depending on how you define “war games.” West Point Army cadets undergo air-assault training at Camp Smith (or at Fort Campbell in Kentucky). Camp Smith’s Air Assault School, part of Military Individual Advanced Development training, is a “locked-in” course, meaning that, when you go to Camp Smith for training, you stay there—and only there—for the duration of that exercise. It’s you and the rotary-winged aircraft (read: helicopters); there’s no running out to Starbucks, no lunch break at Pizza Hut, and definitely no heading home for Happy Hour when you punch out at 5 pm. It is designed to simulate war conditions and to teach cadets the leadership skills required for battle. 

In addition, Smith is home to the New York State Academy of Fire Science Annex and it also houses various shooting ranges for all different types of weaponry. The camp’s 2,000 acres of rugged, mountainous terrain overlooking the Hudson River provide a challenging facsimile of many potential future war zones. 

Straddling the border of Westchester and Putnam Counties, it is situated three miles south of the Bear Mountain Bridge and 10 miles south of (and across the Hudson River from) West Point. The National Guard Bureau has classified Camp Smith as a Collective Training Area for battalion-size units, which usually range in size from 300 to 700 soldiers. 


An 1834 pen-and-ink portrait by Reinier Craeyvanger was among the works auctioned by Berolzheimer.


QWhat can you tell me about the Westchester art collector and lawyer Michael Berolzheimer and his art collection being stolen by the Nazis?

—Mitchell Schoenberg, Rye Brook

A: Michael Berolzheimer fled Germany in 1938 at age 72 and left behind a collection of more than 800 works of art, many of which bore the signatures of icons like Rembrandt and Rodin. The Nazi government forced Jews to sell art collections to pay a capital-flight tax levied on those leaving Germany. The works were auctioned off to pay for his exit and all the proceeds were kept by the state. After Berolzheimer sacrificed all his property and assets to flee, he settled in Mount Vernon. He died in 1942.

Berolzheimer’s stepson began a search for the artwork immediately after the war and was able to recover about 100 pieces of the collection over his lifetime before he ended the search in 1966. More recently, Berolzheimer’s great-nephew (who shares the same name) renewed the search on behalf of the heirs with the assistance of the New York Holocaust Claims Processing Office. This Michael Berolzheimer is not a direct heir to his great-uncle’s inheritance, but he has had success recovering some of the artwork, including an 1834 pen-and-ink portrait of a geographer by Reinier Craeyvanger, Hendrick Potuyl’s Two Farmers at an Inn, and Nicolas Bertin’s Apollo and the Cumean Sibyl.

There are seven heirs who benefit from the return of the artwork. Four live in New Zealand and three in the United States. Michael Berolzheimer, the great-nephew, lives in Japan.

Hundreds of pieces from the Berolzheimer collection remain at large.  

Q: I heard the Underground Railroad was quite active in Peekskill. Are any of the original safe houses still standing?

—Deborah Lynne Sperry, Katonah

A: In the 1800s, what has become known as the Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses that secretly sheltered runaway slaves as they made their way out of slavery and into the northern United States or Canada.

Hawley Green, a successful barber and realtor in the 1830s, and his wife, Harriet, were free African Americans who lived at 1112 Main Street in Peekskill. The Greens were not former slaves, having been born free, but they were a deeply religious couple who believed it was their duty to help free those who were enslaved.

Hawley Green was a stationmaster, the common term for someone who operated a safe house for escaping slaves. The house has been added to and modified, but part of the structure from its days as a stop on the Underground Railroad remains intact.  

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