Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 22

Reflections on Life as a POW

With more time for thought and reflection, Papa, making full use of his poetic talent, began to describe his life as a POW more vividly and in much greater detail. To make it easier for the reader to decipher this unusual piece of literature, he underlined the rhyming words and indicated with a slash the end of each line. Papa often went beyond a mere description of the good and bad times at camp.

He began by reflecting upon what makes a man truly free and what makes him a prisoner, not just in the literal sense of being surrounded by miles of barbed wire fences and guards ready to shoot at anyone attempting to escape. Freedom for Papa was more than having food, drink and shelter; slavery more than being deprived of these things. If the human spirit prevails despite severe deprivations, it is free. If, on the other hand, it drowns in a flood of material goods, it becomes a slave, not of some exterior force, such as a dictatorial political system, it puts on shackles of its own making.
Papa stated in his notes that something very positive came out of these horrible times at camp. He appreciated food, even the simplest meals, so much more. (Indeed, he would get furious when his children refused to eat what was so lovingly prepared and often left on the plate what he would have gladly eaten while being a POW. ) He addressed the reader directly by saying, ‘There is a sense of fair balance in human life. The hungry and deprived individual relishes a slice of dried bread and finds that it tastes much better than a rich man would ever experience eating a sumptuous gourmet dinner. Indeed simple, modest food will spare the less fortunate in life many diseases afflicting the wealthy gluttons in society. Dear reader, remember that times of adversity can be helpful. So if you don’t forget them, you will savour even the most basic food with great enjoyment when you are doing better. The more you are mindful of your past ordeals, the more you will thank God and be content when you receive your daily bread and no longer suffer from your hunger pangs.’


  1. Missionarysights · September 17

    Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 22

    On Friday, September 17, 2021, The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project wrote:

    > Peter Klopp posted: ” Reflections on Life as a POW With more time for > thought and reflection, Papa, making full use of his poetic talent, began > to describe his life as a POW more vividly and in much greater detail. To > make it easier for the reader to decipher this unusual ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pure Glory · September 17

    Papa and his attitude of thankfulness is quite the lesson. It must have been hard for his kids to get lectures on not eating their food but appreciation for what we are given to eat is good.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Stella, oh, Stella · September 17

    My mother told us, when she thought we were old enough, about the hunger times during the war. And she always taught us respect for food, and that we should be grateful for what we have. That is the one lesson that still sticks with me, because I think it was a good one.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you Peter for this valuable post of Papa Pankin. If I squint my eyes I can recognize some German words, but to read the entire diary it would be to exhausting for my eyes, although I would love to read his writings. I guess I am getting too old by now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter Klopp · September 21

      Luckily I was able to magnify the images so that I cold read and translate the text.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy · September 18

    What a wise man he was. And it is so true that when we have plenty, we take it for granted. Even in things like the weather. We take blue skies and warm temperatures for granted until we have a string of gray and chilly days, and then a warm and sunny day seems especially delightful. I am sure you are feeling that now that the smoke has lifted from your area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · September 21

      You guessed it, Amy. How much joy there is seeing the blue sky and breathing fresh air again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. kopfundgestalt · September 18

    hunger pangs.
    Das ist das richtige Wort, das können wir uns nicht vorstellen,
    Anderen können wir es kaum vermitteln.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ankur Mithal · September 21

    Remarkable spirit – putting his time and skills to such good use during such trying times.
    One of the basic lessons we were taught as kids was to never waste food because there are many who don’t get enough to eat. I think it has universal application.


    • Peter Klopp · September 21

      Wasting food is rampant in North America. What lands in the garbage cans would feed all the starving people of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ankur Mithal · September 22

        Unfortunately true. Lot of noise is made about inventing technologies to reuse stuff. However, the voices for consuming less are muted. Perhaps it is unsexy. Perhaps is will reduce the GDP.

        Liked by 1 person

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