Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. This Latin adage, meaning “Times are changing, and we are changing with them,” rings especially true when examining cultural norms for human behaviour. When Papa was a police officer before and during the war, his elevated status in society did not allow him to have his wife working. A man of his rank was supposed to feed his wife and family. Now having been a former officer of the German army, he could not hope to find employment as a police officer in the Soviet-occupied province of Thuringia. Fortunately, he eventually found work as a dental technician at a friend’s dentistry lab. All of a sudden, the honour code of the former police force no longer applied, and his wife Elisabeth was working for a Russian officer who needed help to keep his rather large household organized and running well. For a few hours every day, Elisabeth Panknin had to do housework for him in exchange for a modest wage and some precious victuals from the kitchen.
One day when she reported for work, the whole household of the commander was in disarray and upheaval. The commander had lost his precious ring. An extensive search by all the members of the home had been unsuccessful. The ring was not found. Finally, mother Panknin was accused of having stolen it. The commander told her that she had to return the precious object by the following day or face dire consequences. Elisabeth was scared to death. She had seen and admired the ring but had no idea where it was. She spent the night in agony, not knowing what to do. Finally, after many prayers, she decided to offer the commander all her jewellery the next day to prove her innocence.
The following morning, weak with fear and apprehension, she arrived at her workplace. She was immediately sent to the commander’s office, who was holding out his hand when she entered. Frau Panknin could not believe her eyes when she saw the precious ring sparkling on his finger. In his broken German, the commander explained how he had found the ring. When he was getting dressed that morning, he had felt a small object in the lining of his jacket. On further investigation, it felt like his lost ring. He suddenly remembered that he had put it in his jacket pocket for some reason Frau Panknin could not understand. His coat pocket had a small tear in the seam, and the ring had slipped through it into the silk lining. That the ring was found in the nick of time to save my mother-in-law from dire consequences was another miracle. From that day on, the commander rewarded her more generously for her work.
Today I was going to publish a few more pictures from our recent walk to the Fauquier boat dock. Some snow had fallen and stayed to create a wintery scene. But in the meantime, I caught two chickadees feasting on the sunflower seeds they had picked up at our bird feeders. So here is the video I created with some cheerful dinner music. Enjoy.
The Soviet authorities must have known Papa’s background well before they even summoned him to appear for the lengthy interrogations. They mostly took place in the late evening hours. Believing him to be a solid antifascist, they decided to apply the soft treatment on him. Papa was fortunate not to undergo any physical pain or even torture. But the psychological burden weighed heavily on his heart and mind. He never knew what to expect and when he had to show up for the round of these nerve-wracking sessions.
Worst of all, his source of income as a dental technician hung in the balance. For without clearance from the Soviet secret service, he would not be able to work. During one of those evening sessions, the Russian officers took on a very conciliatory approach. They told him that his antifascist background would make him appear in a favourable light. All that Papa would have to do was provide them with names of former Nazi officers in the German army. Indeed, Mr. Panknin would know which ones had displayed through their actions and voiced opinions a pro-Nazi disposition. Ratting on people, however, Walter Panknin was not willing to do.
He courageously replied, “I met so many police force officers and of the German army. But I cannot remember any of these with pro-Nazi leanings.”
“In that case, we will have to keep you here for the night. Perhaps that will help refresh your memory to come up with a list of names in the morning,” was their response via the interpreter.
Upon hearing this somewhat naive statement, the Russian security officers broke out into roaring fits of laughter. For the longest time, Papa could not figure out the cause of their merriment. Somehow Captain Panknin’s remark about not having eaten yet broke the ice. The committee decided to let him go home and stop the interrogations of this honourable gentleman. No doubt, they continued to keep a close watch on my father-in-law. Shortly after, Papa began his employment as a dental technician.
We call the onslaught of one storm after another sweeping in from the wild Pacific the Hawaiian express. The rainfalls were at times so severe that several towns have been put under evacuation alert or even evacuation orders. On Monday many of the major highways in our province have been blocked by terrible landslides. So far here at the Arrow Lakes, we have experienced more moderate weather but we had to stay indoors as it was raining most of the time. When the rain finally let up for a few hours, my wife and I went to the golf course and visited our creek which provides the drinking water for our little community. Here is a glimpse of this short but joyful moment. Enjoy.
Any part written in the first person singular has been contributed by my wife Gertrud (Biene) née Panknin
Being without a job and having no regular income turned out to be a more severe problem. Where would he find work in the Soviet occupation zone as a former police officer and a Wehrmacht battalion commander in Croatia? As such, the Russian authorities viewed Walter Panknin with suspicion and kept a close eye on him.
Papa once experienced joblessness after returning home as a young man with the rank of lieutenant at the end of World War I. How fortunate it was that now he could use the skills he had acquired while training to become a dental technician! He had also built up considerable work experience in Gassen in the 1920s. Good or bad times, there will always be a need for skilled people in the field of dentistry. Finally, a job related to these skills provided hope on Walter’s prospects of a steady income after his return from the POW camp at Bad Kreuznach.
But there was a major hurdle that the Soviet secret service had placed before my father-in-law. The Russians must have received the list of POWs returning from the infamous Rhine Meadows camps. Undoubtedly, they were especially interested in the higher-ranking officers. They aimed to extract valuable information from those with a Nazi background. They also wanted them to rat on former military friends and colleagues.
Brilliant sunshine greeted us at the start of a usual gray and foggy November day. Foul and colder weather was in the forecast. So my wife and I hurried to make good use of such a rare opportunity at this time of the year. Unfortunately by the time we reached our destination, ominous clouds had rolled in and covered the sky. To our great delight, most trees were still showing off their autumn colours. So despite the dark sky, we had a leisurely photo session down at the local golf course. Enjoy.