A Man of the Old Guard
Papa Panknin was a man of the old guard. Born in 1898 in Kalthof, a small village in what was once called Royal Prussia. He grew up in Imperial Germany, absorbed the social values of his time, and, imbued with love for his country, fulfilled his duties as a civil servant in an honourable manner. Above all, he dearly loved his wife, his stepdaughter Elsbeth, and the twins Walter and Gertrud.
Captain Panknin survived two world wars and experienced runaway inflation, the Great Depression, the Nazi era, and the post-war stress in East and West Germany. The cliches about the typical German describe him almost perfectly, a hardworking, intelligent, reliable individual. However, in today’s world, with its emphasis on gender equity and its rainbow-coloured trendiness, he would have had a tough time fitting in.
As I alluded to earlier, his view as a civil servant (Beamter) of the police force was that the relationship between the state and its employees is a two-way street. This contract promises financial security in return for honourable services rendered. During the years of the Weimar Republic and National Socialism, he adhered to the prevailing code of conduct that did not allow a reputable civil servant to have his wife go out and have a job. In his opinion, the wife has a vital role at home and needs to take care of and nurture the children in a safe and loving environment. I share many of his views and thus, to some degree and without apology, have become a living relic of the past. Where I disagree with Papa will be the topic of the next post.