Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 28

New Friends on the Road to Adolescence

Biene wrote this Post

After our return from summer camp in Berg Neustadt, our parents told us the exciting news that the construction of the apartment building was nearing completion. If all went according to schedule, we would celebrate Christmas in our new home.
Angelika had moved to Wolfsburg during the summer. My friend and I had been an inseparable pair, mainly keeping to ourselves. Angelika did not like to “share” me with other girls and had jealously guarded our friendship. I felt lost without her. I was apprehensive about going back to school, fearing being without friends. Once in a while, Angelika and I were invited to for a special occasion to Gisela’s house. Gisela was the girl from Eisenach, the famous town close to Gotha, where the Wartburg castle is located.
But as so often in my life, my fears were unfounded. Gisela and her friend Gudrun felt sorry for me and asked if I wanted to walk with them during recess. They also invited me to do homework at their homes. They always took turns. Knowing my situation, they did not mind that I could not ask them back because of the Old House. I promised them they could always come to my place once we moved. They were okay with this prospect.
Gisela lived with her grandparents, her mom and her older sister in a new apartment not far from our prospective home. Gisela’s pretty mom, a petite, dark-haired woman, was a war widow. Gisela had never known her dad, a pilot, who was killed shortly before her birth.

School Photo with Biene at the Centre

After the war and their flight from east Germany, Gisela’s mom worked as a seamstress while her parents took care of the household chores. Gisela, a tall, long-legged girl with big brown eyes, always wore the most stylish and beautiful dresses which her talented mom designed and sewed for her. Gisela was a bit more serious and reserved than most classmates and appeared to be older.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lakes

Autumn Afternoon at Whatshan Lake

On October 15, a bright sunshiny day that felt more like summer than fall, my wife and I went again hunting for chanterelle at a nearby mountain lake. While we did not find many mushrooms so late in the season, we enjoyed a picnic at a tiny beach framed by forests and the brilliant blue sky. The sky’s reflections on the crystal-clear water transported us into a dream world rarely encountered on our troubled planet. Whether you believe it or not, Biene and I jumped into the lake for a very, very refreshing swim. Enjoy.

Walter Panknin (1898 -1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 27

Papa’s Shocking Letter from Home

Biene wrote this post.

One day, we were all supposed to write a postcard home. I wrote a desperate plea to my parents to come and get me as soon as possible. A few days later, I received a letter from my father.  I eagerly opened this welcome message from home with joyful anticipation. But what my father wrote to me seemed to top off all the bullying I had endured. Instead of comforting words, my father wrote what he may have thought to be a witty  “dissertation.” He explained the linguistic origin of the German words ‘dämlich’ and ‘herrlich,’  roughly translated as ‘dumb’ and ‘masterful.’   Unfortunately, the allusions and fine points of his linguistic examinations are lost in translation.  There are no equivalents in the English language. He told me that the word “dumb” derives from the word “dame.”  On the other hand, “masterful” or “manly” originates from master or man,  and ‘Herrlich’  also has the connotation of wonderful or glorious.

Extract of Papa’s Letter in German (1956)

I could not finish reading my father’s letter because tears of shame and disappointment blinded my vision.  But miraculously, my pain was short-lived.  A supervisor approached me and told me I had a visitor waiting for me in the main office.  When we entered, there was my beloved mother!  It seemed like a miracle. She had made the long and costly trip by bus and train to see me against my father’s advice. I was overjoyed.  We spent the beautiful afternoon together walking in the forest and talking.  I unburdened my heart, and she listened with empathy.   When evening approached, she gave me the choice of going back home with her or staying for the remainder of the vacation.

One thing my father’s letter had accomplished. It stirred up my pride and courage. I was going to show him that I was not that ‘dumb’  weak ‘dame’  intimidated by the ‘wonderful masters.’ I would not give him the satisfaction of proving his point. I decided to stay.I enjoyed the remainder of my time at the youth camp. I learned to ignore verbal assaults and not take them personally. I avoided playing unsupervised games with rough boys and sought out the company of friendly girls.  I also noticed that the supervisors intervened more readily when they saw inappropriate behaviours. Maybe due to my mother’s visit, they were more vigilant.

Summer camp, in many respects, was a great learning experience for me and made me stronger. Thanks to my mother’s love, I felt happy and relieved that I did not quit or give in to fears and feelings of insecurity.  In retrospect, I also appreciate my father’s words.  Although it was not so obvious,  he acted out of concern for me.  He knew that by taunting me, I would rise to the challenge.   In his words, I learned to  ‘master’ my fears.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lakes

Wednesday’s Photos

Crossing the Chasm

We have not seen any rain in the past couple of weeks, making it the driest fall in our region. Of course, the blue sky and bright sunshiny days are most welcome, especially now, as the trees are showing off their autumnal dresses. Recently, I discovered a snail climbing up the vinyl siding of our house. I took it and placed it on a rock to observe its behaviour. The firs reaction as expected was that it withdrew into its shell. In the meantime, I found another rock that looks like a massive mountain when shot from a close distance. When the snail figured it safe to crawl out of its shell, it accepted the challenge like a courageous mountain climber to cross the canyon between the two rocks. Enjoy.

Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 26

Summer Camp at Bergneustadt

Biene wrote this post.

In August 1956, our parents sent us to a summer camp in Bergneustadt, a beautiful town in the forested hills close to Cologne. A charitable organization sponsored us for refugee children from the east. Like many of my classmates, the prospect of having a real vacation away from home seemed exciting at first. But then separation anxiety from my parents took hold of me. Eventually, my mother succeeded in persuading me to go. My brother didn’t appear to have mixed feelings and was eager to leave for new adventures.

Bergneustadt – Photo Credit:

The big, bright youth hostel was nestled in the forest. There were many children our age, about 10 to 14 years old. We slept in large dormitories. It reminded me of the refugee camp in Aurich. I felt intimidated by the crowds of strange children, especially the boisterous teenage boys. There were a few bullies who made life miserable for some of us. They verbally abused us and were physically rough when we played unsupervised games. These boys mercilessly teased us and gloated when they saw that they had upset or hurt us. The group leaders were overwhelmed by the many kids in their care. They often overlooked or did not seem to notice these negative behaviours. Since I was timid, I did not dare to complain; I suffered silently.
We did some exciting excursions to the Aggertalsperre (dam at the river Agger) and the Atta limestone caves. We hiked in the beautiful natural surroundings. Nevertheless, I felt increasingly homesick. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I withdrew even from girls who were trying to be friends with me.