Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and his Family – Part 5

Happy Times for the Walter and Elisabeth Panknin Family

Biene’s Mother with Baby Elsbeth

When baby Elsbeth was born in 1924, her immediate family and relatives did not reject her, as one would have expected under the circumstances. They showed genuine compassion and forgiveness by helping her get on with her life. With their support, she found employment in a photo studio. Four years later, she met Papa and, after a brief courtship, married him. Thus, she put an end to the period of turmoil, grief and the grim prospect of raising alone her fatherless daughter. Not that Papa was the only one smitten with the attractive photo model. She must have had quite a few open and secret admirers who felt drawn to her irresistible charm and infectious cheerfulness. Among her memorabilia, I stumbled over a booklet with poems by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. The poet’s given name, in all likelihood, became the second part of Biene’s double name, Gertrud-Anette. Significantly, Mutti had kept this book for such a long time. The well-worn pages and binding indicate that she frequently enjoyed reading the most romantic poems with its distinct Westphalian flavour. The handwritten dedication by a certain young man with a heartfelt message of regret about coming too late into her life made me recall my near failure to form a lifelong bond with Biene by ‘courting too slow.’

Walter and Elisabeth at the time of their Wedding
The Wedding Announcement

Before Papa and Mutti got married, Papa insisted that their personal life would follow the expectations that would satisfy the honour code of a German police officer. For one thing, to prevent tarnishing his image among his colleagues, he decided to adopt the ten-year-old Elsbeth as his daughter. Her name was subsequently officially changed in the family register to Elisabeth Panknin. For another, Mutti had to abandon her occupation as a photo model and give up her studio employment. State employees and civil servants were expected to support their wives and family fully. It was considered a disgrace to have one’s wife working. For Mutti, it was a new beginning. And if it had not been for the disastrous and chaotic times at the outbreak of WW2, one could have easily ended the story with the fairytale-like concluding sentence, ‘And they lived happily ever after.’

Honeymoon in Meran, Italy – 1930

After their wedding, Papa and Mutti spent their honeymoon in Meran, Northern Italy. But this trip was just the start of a decade-long travelling experience. They went camping and boating together on all the major German rivers. Rain or shine, they paddled down the beautiful Danube into Austria. They explored the romantic stretches of the castle dotted banks of the Rhine. They also travelled down through the low-lying plains on the Ems and Elbe towards the North Sea. Swimming and sunbathing at the white beaches of the Baltic Sea became memorable events.
Whenever First Lieutenant Panknin made use of his vacation time or transformed some of the statutory holidays into long weekends, the young family was on the go. The decade before World War2 turned out to be the best time of their lives. Photos in the carefully documented albums, showing the newlyweds on their travels, attest to the happy days they were able to spend together. Papa was very fond of little Elsbeth and treated her as if she was his very own daughter. They included her in most of the travelling adventures on land and water, the little outings, the relaxing weekend picnics or the frequent hikes in the nearby forests.

14 comments

  1. Amy · April 30

    It does sounds like a fairy tale—the child born out of wedlock treated well by her mother’s family and effectively adopted by her stepfather. But there is something ominous in this post, and I expect that once the war came, life was no longer so idyllic. Lovely photographs, Peter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pure Glory · April 30

    Real life certainly has good and bad times. So good that there were so many good times before the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stella, oh, Stella · April 30

    Elisabeth deserved that decade of bliss after all the hardship that she had faced as a child and young woman. It was very decent of Walter to adopt her daugher and treat her as his own. Not everyone would have done that. My husband had been adopted by the same kind of decent man.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Gingold · May 1

    I am continuing to be amazed at the wealth of family history you have, Peter. It is a shame that so many women were treated with scorn in the older times for their unmarried pregnancies. How wonderful for her that she found someone, apparently there were many, who overlooked that and accepted her for who she was and could be and not the label society placed upon her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · May 1

      Thank you, Steve! True love is when you can forgive and show compassion for the ones who need help.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. kopfundgestalt · May 1

    ‘courting too slow.‘ what does that mean?! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · May 1

      Courting too slow means that you are taking too much time to propose to marry and to say I love you to the one you love.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kopfundgestalt · May 1

        Yes, I knew that. You hesitated to propsoe a marriage…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Klopp · May 1

        Meine Frau war bereits verlobt, ich diente in der Bundeswehr und wir sahen uns nur vier mal. So langsam war ich.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. kopfundgestalt · May 1

    Nice that Elsbeth could grow up well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. And yet we know where things will go…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ankur Mithal · May 21

    Good things happen to good people, they say.
    On a diff note, I suspect I have missed some parts of the story. Will try to go back soon.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Steve Schwartzman Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.