On a Sunday afternoon earlier this month, the playwright Bess Wohl stood on the shores of a lake in this Long Island hamlet about 60 miles from Manhattan. She admired the surface pleasures of the scene — the water, the leaves, a sky the blue of a faded Tiffany’s box, an obliging swan.
“But I also see history,” she said. “I see what happened here.”
What happened here was a summer camp, operated in the 1930s by the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. Its teenage participants swam, hiked, competed in archery and went to dances, all the while absorbing Nazi ideology.
“On the surface,” said Arnie Bernstein, the author of a book on the German American Bund, “it was like any other camp, except it was filled with swastikas.”
The flower beds and rose bushes, he noted, were planted in swastika patterns. And there are photos of the camp of rallies that look like smaller, more rustic versions of Nuremberg.
The camp finally closed in 1941, not long after the United States entered World War II. And the town erased it from memory. At the lake the local historical society sponsored a display board, detailing the history of Yaphank. The 1930s and Camp Siegfried were elided.
Wohl has salvaged that history in “Camp Siegfried,” an intimate two-character play directed by David Cromer. It’s in previews now, and opens on Nov. 15 at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater. Over the course of a summer, a nameless boy, 17, and a girl, 16, fall in and out of what isn’t exactly love. It’s a play about seduction, Wohl believes — by bodies, by beliefs, by stories.