Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Chapter 5 Part 1

Mutti Panknin and her Three Children

Any part written in the first person singular has been contributed by my wife Gertrud (Biene) née Panknin

The American forces under General George Patton had advanced with lightning speed into Thuringia in April 1945. There, along with thousands of other German officers and soldiers, Walter Panknin became a POW. If the German high command had placed him at the Western front a month earlier, he would have enjoyed spending his captivity in the United States. Life, food and treatment would have been generally good for a German POW. 

The Twins Walter and Gertrud Panknin

In the late summer or early fall, the notorious Rhine Meadows POW camps were shutting down. The western Allied Forces began shipping the POWs to their designated regions of occupied Germany. If you were a soldier with a permanent address in the Soviet-occupied zone, then there they would ship you. By now, the Americans had handed over Papa’s home province Thuringia to the Soviet administration. They had withdrawn their troops to the American Zone in Bavaria and Hesse. Before they left, food was already scarce. However, life was tolerable even in the bombed-out cities if you were among the lucky people who still had a roof over your head.

Mutti Panknin and Her Children Walter, Elsbeth and Gertrud

Papa’s wife Elisabeth recalled a heart-warming event in the spring of 1945, which she passed onto to her daughter Gertrud. An Afro-American G.I . regularly came by the house in Gotha. There she had been living with her family since the early 1930s. At first, Mutti was terrified and believed he was threatening her when he was wildly pointing as if wielding a gun at something at her doorstep. He kept shouting, “Milk for the babies!” Finally, she realized what the kind-hearted soldier intended to tell her when she saw the bottle of milk at her doorstep. Mama Panknin kept this miraculous story in her heart for the rest of her life.

8 comments

  1. Amy · October 29

    Such sweet photos!

    When we visited Germany in 2017, many of the people we met who were children in post-war Germany talked about how grateful they were to the Americans who brought them food in those lean years.

    Like

  2. GP · October 29

    What a good-looking family, Peter!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stella, oh, Stella · October 30

    Stories like that gives one back the hope in mankind … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Schwartzman · October 30

    That’s an excellent anecdote.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ann Coleman · October 31

    Those photos are so sweet!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kopfundgestalt · November 1

    Nice story about the milk-bottle, Peter!

    Liked by 1 person

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