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: neustadt-in-europa.de


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.

4 Replies to “Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 26”

  1. Since these were all the children of refugees, undoubtedly scarred by their wartime experiences, it’s not all that surprising that they had a lot of anger. And then again…children can be mean and nasty growing up in the best of circumstances.

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  2. Als kleiner Bube wurde ich auch von Mädchen gehänselt. Ich zog es dann vor, nicht mehr in den Kindergarten zu gehen.
    Als etwa 8-Jähriger war ich im Sommer in einem Camp der Bundesbahn. Ich litt damals ziemlich. Die Betreuerinnen waren damals recht grob.
    Dennoch war ich zum Schluss froh, das durchgestanden zu haben.

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  3. I can imagine that the sleeping arrangements reminded you of the refugee camp, which cannot possibly have been a good start of the camp. You had had a lot of changes and excitement during the years in GDR and after the escape to FRG. That camp was simply too much for you I guess, especially because you were there more or less alone. I presume your brother went his own ways.

    The only group travels I did at that age where trips with the school class, and even that I didn’t like at the age of 10. It just isn’t for everybody.

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