Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and his Family – Part 3

Embarking on a Career as a Police Officer

At age twenty-eight, Papa embarked on a police force career. He was in charge of maintaining law and order in the Weimar Republic during the most turbulent and chaotic 20th century Germany. The hierarchy and structure leaned heavily on the model provided by the army. So within the first five years, thanks to his military experience, Papa worked his way up to a lieutenant’s rank. At the end of a decade of dedicated service to the state advanced to the first lieutenant’s position. As such, he was in charge of about a dozen men and was responsible for the city of Dortmund’s safety and security. One day as he was riding home from work, he fell off his bike. His letters did not reveal whether he had slipped on loose gravel or a patch of oil on the road. But when he landed on the pavement, he must have fallen on his service pistol. A shot went off triggered by the impact of the nasty spill. The bullet went straight through his lower abdomen and destroyed one of his kidneys. It was a miracle that the shot had taken that particular path and caused no life-threatening injury except the loss of a kidney.

Walter Panknin’s 30th Birthday

Near the end of the 1920s, it was pretty standard for people to go to a professional photographer to have one’s picture taken. Many well-to-do citizens were now using high-quality cameras. But people preferred a portrait from a photo studio by a professional photographer for its quality and beauty. Papa had started a successful career as a police officer. I can easily picture him feeling a need to have his picture taken for his mother Gertrud, brother Rudi and sister Toni. I see him drop in at one of the nearby studios, where Elisabeth Reifferscheid was employed.

Elisabeth Reifferscheid 1926

Furthermore, I visualize him being deeply touched by Elisabeth’s graceful preparations for the portrait. He liked how she directed him on the armchair for that perfect pose. He had gone through the rigours of paramilitary training in the sober Prussian environment. Feelings and sentiments were being kept bottled up. They, sadly enough, were considered totally out of place in a man’s world. The young officer took in with delight the sight of that rare combination of beauty, competence, charm and Rhinelandish cheerfulness, which he found in the woman, who was getting him ready for the picture. It was love at first sight, but I do have to declare for the sake of truth that I made up the story of their first encounter. I had looked at the exquisite photos of my beautiful mother-in-law in her mid-twenties. She also worked at the time as a photo model. Her photos inspired me. They reminded me so much of my own experience when I beheld Biene’s beauty for the very first time at Lake Baldeney.

11 comments

  1. Amy · April 16

    Wonderful photograph, and such a surprising ending to the story of who took the photograph.

    I hope the loss of the kidney did not shortey his life.

    Like

  2. Stella, oh, Stella · April 16

    I like your version of their first meeting! 🙂
    I am surprised that his gun could go off, was it not secured? It must have been quite a heavy injury, even if not life threatening.

    Like

  3. crowcanyonjournal · April 16

    A nice story, Peter — including the portion you made up! Nice pictures, too!

    Like

  4. Pure Glory · April 16

    It is so interesting to hear that he got injured with his own gun in an accident. Elisabeth is beautiful and your story sounds plausible.

    Like

  5. Ann Coleman · April 17

    She certainly was beautiful! And I’m glad that the accidental shooting didn’t do worse damage, but still, losing a kidney is scary!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Steve Schwartzman · April 18

    Do you remember how we used to interpolate a value between adjacent entries in a table of logarithms or trigonometric functions? You followed that tradition by interpolating an episode into the Panknin family history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · April 19

      Yes, I do remember. It was a very time-consuming activity in the days when computers and calculators were virtually unknown.

      Like

  7. kopfundgestalt · April 18

    Rhinelandish cheerfulness…I can imagine that. 🙂

    Such a stupid accident.
    My father also had three serious accidents. In the war before that, however, he always seemed to have been lucky.

    As a man one did not show feelings at that time, only on special occasions when one was hit by Cupid’s arrow. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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