Past Meeting

At our public meeting on Sunday, November 21, 2010 the featured presentation was:

German POWs board a train under guard at an Eastern port of entry in preparation for their transit to a prisoner-of-war camp in the country's heartland, 1944.

When Nazi Prisoners Passed Through Paoli

by Roger Thorne

One of the little-known stories from World War II is that, from 1943 to 1945, hundreds of thousands of German prisoners of war (PWs) entered the United States through one of three American ports. The largest of these ports was the New York Port of Embarkation. The PWs were then transported, under heavy guard, by railroad to camps throughout the nation, and the Pennsylvania Railroad was perhaps the largest contributor to this effort. Thousands of PRR trains, traveling under secret orders, passed incognito through the Upper Main Line communities of Berwyn and Paoli at full speed to unspecified locations in the west and south of the country. And hardly anyone in Chester County even knew this was happening.

In his presentation, Mr. Thorne used many rare photographs, obscure railroad correspondence, and detailed, eye-witness accounts to tell yet another story of the substantial role of the railroads in winning the war on the homefront. This was a “must-attend” presentation for local history buffs, railroad fans, and students of World War II.

(L-R) Carl Landeck, Roger Thorne, Gene Steffy
Photo courtesy John O. Senior

Special guests also in attendance were Mr. Gene Steffy, a retired Pensylvania Rairoad engineman, and Mr. Carl Landeck, historian for the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society. Both gentleman shared their thoughts and recollections after the presentation, and were thanked by Mr. Thorne for their contributions to his research.

Two days after the presentation, the article Local historian traces POW trains through Paoli was published in the Main Line Suburban Life newspaper on 23 November 2010.


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