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.