Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 16

Papa Lending a Helping Hand

Places Walter Panknin Mentioned in his Notes

The following night Jepson invited Captain Panknin to sleep at his place. For the first time in weeks, Papa had a good night’s rest. Refreshed from a deep sleep, having recharged his internal batteries, he set out to go to the police HQ to receive further instructions. He had barely walked a few steps when Leipzig came under a sudden and unexpected aerial attack. The bombs were already falling when the sirens belatedly began their alarming howling in the city. An incendiary bomb plunged into a neighbour’s house, which almost immediately burst into flames. Papa helped the poor inhabitants with salvaging valuables from the burning inferno. His clothes singed by the fire and exhausted from the hard work, he arrived at the HQ, where to his greatest surprise, he was presented with yet another marching order, this time to Dresden-Hellerau. He had hardly received his provision for this eastern journey when the order was replaced by yet another, which sent him back to the latest hotspot at the western front near Weimar, where the Americans had launched a major offensive under General George Patton.

On April 8, shortly after midnight, he arrived by train at Weimar, where he went straight to the police HQ. By 06:15, he was climbing with a small troop under his command onto an army truck, which took him straight to the provisional front line near Erfurt. From there, they marched to Schmira amidst a barrage of shellfire and attacks from the air. Upon arrival, Papa looked in amazement at the bewildering array of the hastily set up feeble defence measures, most peculiar-looking anti-tank obstacles, and highly questionable battle preparations. It was dead quiet; the shellfire had suddenly ceased. Was it the calm before the storm? In the ominous stillness of impending doom, Papa found time in a nearby inn to write a letter to Mutti and family, which he passed on to a female communication aid to deliver it if at all possible to his wife in nearby Gotha. All day long, he could hear the droning of enemy planes over Erfurt. After a restful sleep in the basement of the police HQ, he felt his confidence returning, especially regarding Mutti and the children. He began to contemplate the best strategy to survive during the remaining few weeks of the war.  In anybody’s reasonable mind, the fighting should stop. However, the regime-loyal fanatics were bent on dragging the German people into even greater misery than they had already suffered so far. Should he stay at the frontline and count on becoming a POW of the American forces? Or should he follow the marching order to Dresden, which was most likely already occupied by the Red Army and try his luck as a POW of the Soviet forces? As a higher ranking police officer, not quite fitting into the overall scheme of an increasingly chaotic defence plan, he had, in contrast to the common soldier, at least some freedom to move.

8 comments

  1. kopfundgestalt · July 16

    Nice choice: becoming a prisoner of war of the American forces or a prisoner of war of the Soviet forces .

    My father’s brother secretly said to his brother on home leave: I will not come back. He described the destination of his company as a complete lost cause. Soon after, that company was completely crushed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pastor Cathy · July 16

    Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 16

    On Friday, July 16, 2021, The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project wrote:

    > Peter Klopp posted: ” Papa Lending a Helping Hand Places Walter Panknin > Mentioned in his Notes The following night Jepson invited Captain Panknin > to sleep at his place. For the first time in weeks, Papa had a good night’s > rest. Refreshed from a deep sleep, having rechar” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy · July 16

    I hope he made the right choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pure Glory · July 16

    I am sure he went with being a POW of American forces. A much better choice than the Soviets who sent the prisoners of war to Russia or killed them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an incredible difficult decision Papa had to decide on. We all hope that is was the right one

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Coleman · July 18

    I can’t even begin to imagine having to make those kinds of decisions, knowing they could literally be the difference between life or death.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve Schwartzman · July 18

    We know he survived, so presumably he made the right decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ankur Mithal · July 19

    Remarkable that he could think clearly under such trying circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

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