Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 9

The Good Life in Zavidovici

Papa, who had recently advanced to the rank of a captain, enjoyed an excellent rapport with his staff. He carried out his business in a strict but fair manner, which earned him the respect of his officers and the people of the Bosnian district around Zavidovici. They were grateful for the security that his troops provided. Tito’s bands and the German army alike were terrorizing towns and villages elsewhere in their attempts to gain control over the enemy. For Captain Panknin, there was just one fly in the ointment. He also had to deal with troublesome disciplinary matters arising from a company of volunteer soldiers under his command soon after Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. The company mainly consisted of exiled Russians, former Belorussians or their children. As Papa described them in a letter to a friend after the war, they were drunkards, thieves, and good-for-nothings. In his opinion, the military police should have arrested them and put them in an army jail for all kinds of significant infractions. Breaking military rules and criminal activity within and outside the barracks were examples that Papa mentioned in his report. But documenting all the individual cases and summoning witnesses to support the evidence would have taken too much valuable time. The little episode corroborated what I learned from my brothers’ reports in Book I.  It may come as a surprise to most readers that many young men from European countries were willing to fight for Germany against the Bolshevik threat to take over all of Europe.

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Picturesque Landscape near Zavidovici, Croatia

On October 30th, 1944, a telegram arrived from the Gotha police headquarters informing Captain Panknin of a very joyful event back home. The message read as follows: TWINS ARRIVED ON 29/10 44 BOY AND GIRL MOTHER AND CHILDREN ARE WELL. Great was Papa’s joy. What a blessing to have twins when it had appeared that he would not have any children of his own after fourteen years of marriage! His staff was equally delighted and created for their boss the most beautiful congratulatory card I have ever seen.

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There must have been an artist among the officers. No commercial card could have matched the quality of the picture depicting two storks delivering the babies, the touching message for their dear commandant, and a lovely poem to boot signed by the entire staff. Of course, this extraordinary event called for celebration. But the best part for Papa was that he was granted a rare leave in the New Year from war-torn Yugoslavia to travel home to see his wife and children.

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  1. Pure Glory · May 28

    It is amazing that Walter would be granted leave in the midst of a war. He had favor.


  2. What a beautiful and artistic announcement for Papa and also being granted to get time off to see his wife and new family. I remember those kind of cards with a stork ( Storch) I have one for myself.


  3. Amy · May 29

    I love the card! I am too lazy to put it through Google Translate, and the pandemic has interrupted my German study group, so I am really rusty. Can you translate it and also the cartoon? Danke!


  4. Stella, oh, Stella · May 29

    The card is beautifully done, both, the drawing and the writing!
    Good that he could go home and see his family. I wonder, if he ever was sent back to Croatia …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve Schwartzman · May 30

    In the 20th century, totalitarian regimes caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, but Communists killed many more people than Fascists, so we can understand why some Russians would fight with Germany against the Soviet Union. Of course, if the Nazis had won and their dictatorship had lasted longer, they probably would have killed at least as many millions of people as the Communist dictatorships.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · June 1

      Both systems were driven by ideologies that were diametrically opposed to basic human values, such as free speech, freedom, and democracy.


  6. kopfundgestalt · June 3

    One cannot imagine such a time.
    That’s what I keep thinking about reports like this.
    So will Biene experience a schnapps number in October ?! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ankur Mithal · June 12

    Beautiful cards 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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