Walter Panknin (1898 -1977) and His Family Ch5 Part 5

Frau Panknin Accused of Theft

Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. This Latin adage, meaning “Times are changing, and we are changing with them,” rings especially true when examining cultural norms for human behaviour. When Papa was a police officer before and during the war, his elevated status in society did not allow him to have his wife working. A man of his rank was supposed to feed his wife and family. Now having been a former officer of the German army, he could not hope to find employment as a police officer in the Soviet-occupied province of Thuringia. Fortunately, he eventually found work as a dental technician at a friend’s dentistry lab. All of a sudden, the honour code of the former police force no longer applied, and his wife Elisabeth was working for a Russian officer who needed help to keep his rather large household organized and running well. For a few hours every day, Elisabeth Panknin had to do housework for him in exchange for a modest wage and some precious victuals from the kitchen. 

Elsbeth, Gertrud

One day when she reported for work, the whole household of the commander was in disarray and upheaval. The commander had lost his precious ring. An extensive search by all the members of the home had been unsuccessful. The ring was not found. Finally, mother Panknin was accused of having stolen it. The commander told her that she had to return the precious object by the following day or face dire consequences. Elisabeth was scared to death. She had seen and admired the ring but had no idea where it was. She spent the night in agony, not knowing what to do. Finally, after many prayers, she decided to offer the commander all her jewellery the next day to prove her innocence.

Mutti Panknin with Little Walter

The following morning, weak with fear and apprehension, she arrived at her workplace. She was immediately sent to the commander’s office, who was holding out his hand when she entered. Frau Panknin could not believe her eyes when she saw the precious ring sparkling on his finger. In his broken German, the commander explained how he had found the ring. When he was getting dressed that morning, he had felt a small object in the lining of his jacket. On further investigation, it felt like his lost ring. He suddenly remembered that he had put it in his jacket pocket for some reason Frau Panknin could not understand. His coat pocket had a small tear in the seam, and the ring had slipped through it into the silk lining. That the ring was found in the nick of time to save my mother-in-law from dire consequences was another miracle. From that day on, the commander rewarded her more generously for her work.

16 comments

  1. Amy · November 26

    But did he apologize for his terrible accusation? I am glad she escaped punishment, but it’s sad how quick people are to judge others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter Klopp · November 29

      I know from my own experiences how hard it is to say I am sorry. But then action is better than words. For some, it is easy to apologize, and yet their actions show that they are not. The officer’s good treatment of my mother-in-law was perhaps his way of saying sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Steve Schwartzman · November 29

      I had the same question.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Stella, oh, Stella · November 26

    I must admit that I have done the same thing as the Russian officer, accusing somebody else of something before investigating thoroughly. Though not openly, only in my thoughts, but I felt ashamed afterwards anyway. I think he did too … your poor mother in law.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter Klopp · November 29

      I know from my own experiences how hard it is to say I am sorry. But then action is better than words. For some, it is easy to apologize, and yet their actions show that they are not. The officer’s good treatment of my mother-in-law was perhaps his way of saying sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stella, oh, Stella · November 29

        I am sure it was! Some people consider apologizing as weakness. I think it is not. I mean I make a mistake, I regret it, I apologize, and in most cases the matter is done with. And in future I might be more careful (I am trying … ).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pure Glory · November 26

    Living in a Soviet controlled area was very difficult for the Germans. Your mother-in-law’s prayers were heard and the officer’s ring was found. It would not have gone well for her otherwise. There was truly a blessing on Biene’s family.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Edda · November 27

    Mich würde auch interessieren, ob der russische Offizier sich entschuldigt hatte…Mutter Panknin hatte Todesangst ausgestanden! Hätte der Kommandant den Ring nicht wiedergefunden, wäre Elisabeth Schlimmes geschehen! Und keiner hätte helfen dürfen und können..

    Like

  5. Edda · November 27

    Mich würde auch interessieren, ob der russische Offizier sich entschuldigt hatte…Mutter Panknin hatte Todesangst ausgestanden..Hätte der russische Kommandant den Ring nicht wiedergefunden, wäre Elisabeth Schlimmes widerfahren und keiner hätte ihr helfen können und dürfen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · November 29

      Ob der russische Offizier sich entschuldigt hat, kann ich nicht sagen. Aber seine gute Behandlung und bessere Bezahlung muss Bienes Mutter als Entschuldigung empfunden haben.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Coleman · November 27

    She must have been so scared! It was a miracle that ring was found!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. kopfundgestalt · November 29

    A bad story.
    Something similar was reported by my male grandfather, whom I never met. He accused his son-in-law of stealing money.
    Another category is the suffering of my father. His female grandfather promised him that he would take over the construction of his house as a builder, as he did with his other children. Only he died unexpectedly in an accident and the promise was no longer worth anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Steve Schwartzman · November 29

    My grandmother, whose native language was Russian and who spoke English with a heavy accent, knew Tempora mutantur. I remember hearing her quote it but I don’t remember her saying the second part.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. crowcanyonjournal · November 30

    I’m glad your story had a happy ending!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. intrepid8 · December 2

    A very good story. It upset me to hear someone accused without much reason. I am glad it had a happy resolution.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ankur Mithal · December 12

    Just good fortune it turned out well. People do not think twice before judging others less well off. In India, having house help is common, as inequalities are still pretty stark. In every case of loss of anything material, the needle of suspicion always seems to point at the help.

    Liked by 1 person

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