Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 21

Microscopic Note Writing

Finally, on May 7, the weather showed signs of improvement, and on the following day, the sun broke through the cloud cover, bringing much-needed warmth for body and soul. However, Papa’s feet and toes were numb; he felt a tingling sensation throughout his lower limbs and could barely walk. His heart began to give him trouble. He knew that he would not have lasted much longer. But now, as he was feeling better and his feet were no longer bothering him and after he was finally able to clear himself of all the dirt on his body, wash his shirt and socks, a sense of new optimism was surging through his entire being. Rumours were also circulating through the camp that the POWs would get permission to go home. The war was over now. Why would the Americans want to keep them any longer? Would it not be cheaper to make them go home and save the expense of looking after, feeding and guarding 80,000 men? But just as Papa was looking in vain for blue patches in the leaden sky, so all his hopes for early dismissal vanished into thin air. Camp life went on with its daily routines. The camp guards became rather more severe as days dragged into weeks and weeks into months. They meted out ruthless punishments after some POWs in constant search for firewood had ripped off some of the toilet seats from the camp latrines.

It is truly amazing how much information Papa Panknin could cram onto a small piece of paper.

Papa was not the type who would not want to idle away the time by just sitting around in the sunshine or play cards for endless hours, even if it was his favourite card game, ‘Skat’. He wrote his notes now on slightly larger paper but continued with the same microcosmic handwriting. Of course, Papa knew that it was strictly forbidden to record his experiences at the camp and therefore was extremely careful not to let anyone see him write. I guess the reason for these rules was that nothing should ever go out to the outside world that might tarnish the image of the Americans.


  1. Amy · 15 Days Ago

    Is that the actual size of the paper? And how did he preserve all these at the camp and thereafter?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter Klopp · 15 Days Ago

      The size is hard to estimate for the viewers as every computer screen is different. All papers I found in a small envelope among my father-in-law’s belongings are about the size of a standard playing card. How he kept them in the POW camp without being discovered is something I wished I would know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy · 15 Days Ago

        Amazing. And how they didn’t deteriorate in those damp conditions is also amazing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Steve Schwartzman · 13 Days Ago

        Yes, even more impressive than writing on all those slips of paper was managing to keep them safe and bringing them home.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Klopp · 12 Days Ago

        Indeed, that is a mystery to me too.


  2. Stella, oh, Stella · 15 Days Ago

    “I guess the reason for these rules was that nothing should ever go out to the outside world that might tarnish the image of the Americans.”
    I am sure you hit jackpot with this remark!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Peter, ich kann etliches entziffern was Papa Panknin nieder geschrieben hat, vor allem viele key words. It’s all very significant what he was able to scribble down on a little piece of paper. I guess that there wasn’t any paper at all, since he was not allowed to put down his thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ankur Mithal · 14 Days Ago


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ann Coleman · 13 Days Ago

    How long was he in the POW camp? Did he ever find out the reason prisoners were kept for so long after the war was over? Was it just rage against the Nazis? I’m so sorry for what he went through!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter Klopp · 12 Days Ago

      My father-in-law was lucky that his ordeal lasted ‘only’ half a year. POWs from the Soviet Union had to wait up to 10 years before being released. Many died in the labour camps. So sad!

      Liked by 1 person

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