Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and his Family – Part 27

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The soups were getting thinner. The German cooks were stretching the available food supplies to the very limit of human existence. If only the poor prisoners had received a little bit of fat, they would not have lost so much weight. Papa humbly praised the administration when he received an additional allotment of a quarter litre of fresh water. Indeed, a man needs very little food and drink to survive. He was even making a written promise that reads like a solemn oath. ”If I should ever be able to return home, I will be content with even the most basic meal,” and then adds with a full measure of doubt, “thus we think now. But how will it be, once we are free and live a life marked by waste and abundance?”
If you managed to get a job as a kitchen aid in this climate of hunger, your comrades considered you the luckiest person in the world. For your survival, at least as far as food was concerned, had been secured. While helping with the preparation and distribution of the most primitive meals, you always had a chance to stuff a slice of bread or a cooked potato into your mouth. No wonder kitchen service was one of the most sought-after occupations in the entire camp. But it appeared from reading his notes that Papa had no such luck.

In contrast to Papa’s ordeal, these German POWs were lucky to have been captured by the US Army before April 1945. They were shipped to the United States to work on farms. In most cases they were treated fairly according to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Many liked it so much they did not want to return home after the war.

One day, when morale was low and hopes were down, there came an unexpected order from the prison guards, “All POWs from Zone II assemble at the sundial.” For the longest time, the captured German soldiers appeared to have been a wholly forgotten bunch. They were the ones that had their homes in the Soviet-occupied part of East Germany. Finally, the camp authorities told them that they could soon return home to their families. Many, including Papa, refused to believe, being well aware of the many times they had been lied to and misled by false promises. But when the guards asked them to line up to receive all their confiscated personal belongings, they put up their hopes again. After Papa had gotten back all his money down to the last penny, he too was convinced that finally, after all these horrible ordeals, his release from the camp would be close at hand. They even received a new name. They were now officially called the ‘reprocessed.’
It is challenging for me to determine the exact time of Papa’s release from the POW camp. However, it is safe to assume that he belonged to the lucky ones. His notes written on minuscule cigarette paper ended abruptly with no reference provided to the date of his release from the POW camp. According to reliable sources, the Western nations had allowed most prisoners to go home by the end of 1948. So Papa was lucky to return home to his family in Gotha no later than late summer or early fall of 1945.

End of Chapter IV


  1. Pure Glory · October 21

    Papa was definitely one of the blessed ones. From what I have read food and provisions were scarce in post war Germany.


  2. Amy · October 21

    I am glad to hear he got out not that long after the war ended. Did he harbor resentment against the Americans because of this experience?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · October 26

      As far as I know he did not harbour any resentment even though he often mentioned that the American government is corrupt and driven by greed for money. However, that is true just about any government these days in our materialistic world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy · October 26

        And still definitely true about the US government!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Stella, oh, Stella · October 21

    It was good he got out of that hell hole. I wonder how it was at home. My mother said they did not have enough to eat after the war and lived mainly on swedes. But at least he could be with his family.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Schwartzman · October 21

    It’s impressive that the authorities managed to keep all the prisoners’ belongings safe and return them in their entirety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · October 26

      My father-in-law was most impressed after the many ordeals he had experienced in the POW camp.


  5. kopfundgestalt · October 25

    War das die deutsche Bezeichnung “Wiederaufbereitet” oder war das englisch “reprocessed” ?


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