The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society (GRHS) marked the centennial of the end of World War I with a ceremony at the Onderdonk House on Nov. 12 that also featured the opening of a new exhibit focused on local troops during the conflict.
Terrance Holliday, who was appointed Commissioner of the Veterans Affairs by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010, delivered remarks acknowledging how the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice was more than the end of a bloody war.
The ceasefire and eventual Treaty of Versailles would only set the stage for greater bloodshed in the decades to come with World War II, which saw approximately 24 million deaths.
“Countries like Britain, France and Germany lost about two generations of their young men, you’re talking about a country that really didn’t have a lot to pick itself up of the ground yet they were held accountable for war reparations and [the Treaty of Versailles] which really didn’t leave much hope,” Holliday said. “And then we had the economic downturn 10 years later … so [Germany was] ripe for the nationalistic zeal of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.”
World War I alone is estimated to have resulted in between 37 million to 40 million deaths, including both civilians and military personnel.
The ceremony kicked off a new exhibit at the Onderdonk House, located at 1820 Flushing Ave., on the three World War I memorials in the Greater Ridgewood area. The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society, the Allied Veterans Memorial Committee of Ridgewood and Glendale worked together on the exhibit.
The GRHS continues to seek donations of family photos and other artifacts related to World War I and ties to the Greater Ridgewood area (Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Bushwick).
The Onderdonk House stands as the oldest Dutch colonial house in the city having been granted by Peter Stuyvesant and later sold to Paulus Vander Ende in 1709, which was about the time the structure was built.
About 300 of the WWI military casualties came from the Greater Ridgewood area, Linda Monte of the RHS.
The Ridgewood Times — a sister publication of QNS — has worked to provide its archives to the GRHS, as the paper documented the weekly struggles of the community during World War I. Editor-in-Chief Robert Pozarycki expressed hope that the history of the surrounding area could soon be digitized.
The ceremony was also attended by Bob Monahan, president of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, and Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri.