Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 12

Fate or Coincidence?

But more important was the second reason for letting me dwell on the dark side of the postwar Yugoslav history. When Germany was losing the war on all fronts, Papa had been granted leave because of his twins’ birth. He would have most certainly died if not on the atonement marches, then most certainly later, executed as an officer of the much-hated German army.

Mutti Panknin with the Twins Walter and Gertrud

When Papa told me his survival story on one of our walks in the lush Gruga Park near Velbert in July 1968, I could not help but notice the similarity between the miraculous escape from death between Biene’s Papa and our family. Was it a coincidence? I remember well my thoughts on the strange circumstances under which Biene and I met at Lake Baldenay and how, against all odds, our relationship developed into a lifelong union. Some may claim that everything in life is coincidental. But as for me, I take comfort in the way God, through our faith, provides the means to go beyond a fatalistic attitude and offers deep spiritual meaning to life even in the midst of death.

Proud Papa Panknin

The twins Walter and Biene were already more than two months old when Papa was finally able to hold them in his arms. When looking at the photograph of the proud father looking down on his precious brood, I had a rare glimpse of true happiness at the sight of new life that transcends all human tragedy. Despite the spectre of death and destruction at the front lines and the constant bombing raids, Papa, for that short moment in time, seemed far removed from the ravages of war and the worries of an uncertain future. His smile reflected a genuine picture of paternal pride, which prompted him to muster his inner resources in the battle of survival during the final stages of WW2, no longer just for himself but more importantly for his wife and children. The one-week leave and his visit at Gotha with Mutti, his two babies, Grandma Gertrud from Berlin and his adopted daughter Elsbeth came to an end much too soon.

17 thoughts on “Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 12

  1. I think that there is a meaning with everything, only sometimes we don’t understand it at the time. Sometimes we understand later. There is the physics law of action and reaction, which I believe works in all levels of life, not only the material part. We get back in same kind, as what we put in. The farmers say: you shall reap as you sow, the Hindus call it Karma, same thing, different wording. Father Panknin had been putting out good things, as much as he could under the circumstances, so he was put into the best position that was possible at the time.


  2. Ich habe schon manches Mal von solchen Parallelen in den Schicksalen von Familien gehört, von denen sich dann zwei lebenslänglich in Liebe verbinden. Mich wundert das nicht, denn es bestätigt meine Überzeugung: dass das, was wir Zufall oder Schicksal nennen, tief in uns selbst veranlagt ist.

    Das Bild des glücklichen Papas rührt mich sehr an. Es gibt nur ein einziges Foto meines Vaters mit mir und meinen Geschwistern, ich war 4 Monate alt. Er hat den Krieg nicht überlebt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liebe Gerda, deine lieben Worte haben mich sehr erfreut. Ich habe deine Zeilen meiner Frau gleich vorgelesen. Auch sie findet deine verständnisvollen Worte sehr ergreifend. Schon lange folge ich deinen künstlerisch reichen Blog. Doch WordPress teilt mir nicht mit, wenn du einen neuen Post in deinen Blog setzst. Viele liebe Grüße aus dem fernen Kanada!


  3. The blessings of having twins at the right time, for life saving leave is a gift from God and miraculous. The saving of your Father and Biene’s Father is definitely God’s provision. You meeting Bien and making the relationship work despite the challenges is God’s kiss and blessing for both of you. He blesses the righteous for a 1,000 generations. What a wonderful and good God!

    Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome, Peter! When we go through difficult times, we might not see the tender hand of the Lord watching over us. In hindsight, we can see how our lives were preserved and blessed with meeting the right person (Peter and Biene) or tragedy averted with both your fathers. Hazel

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re fortunate to have been told the story in person in 1968. Many times over the years I’ve heard people people say that their fathers who’d been in World War 2 didn’t want to talk about their experiences in it. So much of history is so quickly lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That is a gorgeous photograph for many reasons, but especially for Papa’s smile. His twins saved his life. He didn’t know it then, but I am sure he saw them as a miracle then and truly a miracle in hindsight.


  6. Mutti und Papa Pankin sehen so ueberglueklich aus in diesen Bildern. Peter I have given up since a long time about coincidence, to me everything that happens , happens for a reason, we might not recognize it right away, but sooner or later once we are aware of it, we will learn that everything is meant to be and to happen. Have a beautiful Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

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