By Ron Markowitz & Marian Schwartz, Post 625
POUGHKEEPSIE N.Y. – A sign honoring Pvt. Herman Siegel was dedicated on the corner of Forbus and May Streets in the City of Poughkeepsie, signifying the culmination of several years of planning between Jewish War Veterans Post 625 and the City of Poughkeepsie. Pvt. Siegel was the first Jewish serviceman from Poughkeepsie killed in World War II, and Jewish War Veterans Post 625 is named in his memory. It is an extremely apt location for the sign since Herman Siegel lived most of his life in a house that still stands on May Street. To express gratitude to the City for the sign, the members of Pvt. Herman Siegel Post 625 Jewish War Veterans of the USA pledged to clean May Street of litter on a monthly basis.
Herman Siegel was born May 4, 1925, at Vassar Hospital, the only child of Esther and Harry Siegel. He attended local schools and graduated Poughkeepsie High in June, 1943. An excellent student in both math and science, he was involved in the music festival, orchestra, band, and track, and was very popular among his fellow classmates. In fact, the comment under his senior photo in the year book was, “Six foot tall and not too shy, who cannot help but like this guy.” He had planned to attend Clarkson College, but was drafted into the military right after graduation.
On August 7, 1943, Herman was inducted into the Army and sent for training first to Camp Upton, L.I., later to Fort Riley, Kansas and finally to Fort Meade, Maryland. He was then assigned to the 141st Armed Signal Battalion that supported the First Armored Division in North Africa, and was sent to participate in the Anzio Campaign. Herman was killed on the Anzio Beachhead in Italy on May 18, 1944; he had just turned 19 years old. Private Siegel was first interred in the military cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, and reinterred in the Hebrew Benevolent Cemetery in the City of Poughkeepsie in 1947. After his death, his parents established the Herman Siegel Memorial Prize for Excellence in 12th Year Math at Poughkeepsie High.
The ceremony to dedicate the sign was attended by many local veterans, as well as ordinary citizens and a host of dignitaries. Among those there to honor Pvt. Siegel were Poughkeepsie’s Mayor Rob Rolison, Director of County Veterans Services Marc Coriello, a group of administrators from the Poughkeepsie School District including Supt. Kathleen Farrell and H.S. Principal Ronald Jackson, and a representative of State Senator Sue Serino who presented the Post a proclamation from the NYS Senate. Rabbi Eliezer Langer of Congregation Shomre Israel gave the invocation and benediction, and a Scout from John Jay High School closed the ceremony with taps. All the speakers expressed the hope that Pvt. Siegel would prove an inspiration to today’s youth who attend Poughkeepsie High School right across the street from the sign that is dedicated to his memory.