The wood bridge is part of the Fauquier Golf Course and allows the players to cross Heart Creek to access one of the more difficult tee-offs. Now the golf course is inviting a few hardy individuals like my wife and me and the occasional gaggle of geese looking for the green stuff under the snow.
Bit by bit, in an all-out power grab, the Nazis were taking control of the various institutions, such as the justice system, local and regional police forces, the banks, as well as the army, navy and air force. In a letter to the Minister of Interior Affairs in 1959, Walter Panknin wrote that membership in the NSDAP was mandatory for every police department in Germany. At a time when even foreign ministries initially recognized the legitimacy of the Nazi government, Papa Panknin was forced to join the party in 1934. However, he resisted joining the SS that all the higher-ranked officers were expected to become part of. Despite a barrage of threats and chicaneries, he steadfastly refused to become part of the infamous SS or to quit the Lutheran Church of Germany. Most officers in the armed and police forces had incredible advancements waiting for them, climbing up the rank ladder at a great speed, especially after the start of WW2. My father-in-law never moved any higher than his actual rank of captain during the entire war years. He had to take a punitive transfer to a battalion stationed in Croatia, which turned out as a blessing in disguise. (see chapter 3).
Herr Panknin described, while dealing with the federal and provincial government departments, his battles in army-like terms, his quest for justice. He fought a paper war on many fronts:
His right to fair and equal treatment as a former officer of the regular armed forces compared with officers of the former members of the SS of the same rank,
Recognition of his refugee status C, which was denied because, as an anti-fascist, he had no reason to leave the Soviet-controlled Zone of East Germany as he was told,
Entitlement to a Pension as a former officer or at least granting a meagre old age pension,
Compensation for the well-documented bicycle accident in the early 1930s (somewhat like the BC Workmen’s Compensation Board), which he was eligible to receive and did not get.
The reason why Papa Panknin and his family had so much trouble finding justice in West Germany as a refugee from the former German Democratic Republic can be found in an article published by the German News Magazine ‘Der Spiegel.’
“Roughly 80 percent of the judges and prosecutors who had served Hitler’s regime of terror until May 8 were soon dispensing justice once again — but this time in the young Federal Republic. “Perhaps there is truly evidence,” wrote Nazi expert Jörg Friedrich, “that a constitutional state can stand on a judicial mass grave.”
In the misery of the postwar era, lawyers were urgently needed. Although the crime rate skyrocketed in the era of black markets and refugees, there was a shortage of judges to hear cases. To make up for the deficiencies, the occupiers of the western zones appointed judges who had retired before 1933, or they hired lawyers untainted with Nazi connections. Starting in October 1945, the British practiced the so-called “piggyback procedure” in the recently established judicial administration: For each judge without a Nazi past, one judge with former Nazi connections could be appointed. But, by the summer of 1946, even this restriction had been dropped.
Leaves that had fallen off our giant hazelnut tree plugged up our eaves troughs forming in sub-zero temperatures an icy mess. Before more snow is falling, I need to clean the troughs. Climbing up and down the long ladder is not an easy task. Despite the gloves I am wearing my hands quickly become cold and numb. Standing on top of the ladder and shoveling down leaves and ice, my thoughts wander back in time. I see images in a nostalgic dream-like state of mind. Here are three photos. Enjoy.
Born and raised in Kalthof, West Prussia, steeped in the traditional work ethics of his time, Walter Panknin perceived his employment as a police officer as a contract between the state and the individual. The state offers the individual a permanent position with an income commensurate with his rank and the prospect of a pension providing security and a comfortable living for retirement. In return, the individual faithfully and honourably delivers a service to his country.
In 1915, barely seventeen years old, Papa volunteered and served as a soldier in the Great War. When the German army was reduced to 100,000 men in 1919, he embarked on a career in the police force in North Rhine-Westphalia. His leadership qualities were soon recognized, and he moved quickly up the ranks, becoming a leader of a police detachment in a small town near Dortmund during the turbulent time of the Weimar Republic. One day, while riding his bike to work, he took a spill and fell to the ground. Unfortunately, as he landed on the cobblestone street, his service pistol went off and sent a bullet through his abdomen. At the hospital, the surgeon discovered that the shot had destroyed his left kidney. So Papa had to spend the rest of his life with only one kidney.
The night before the Nazis seized power in 1933, rowdy Brownshirts (SA stormtroopers) terrorized the townspeople with their unruly behaviour in the streets. Walter Panknin, responsible for law and order, sent out the police force and had the troublemakers arrested. The very next day, a call came from the Nazi headquarters, demanding his immediate resignation. His career as a police officer would have ended if some influential friends had not put in a good word for him. That was his first brush with the new dictatorial regime.
We are now into the third week of snow and ice. In the past, the snow would melt away in a few days, even if it had fallen in enormous proportions. The thought that it is not going away one more time before Christmas makes me shiver. But my wife and I still walk over the now deserted golf course. In my desire to find some colour in the grey landscape, I found a little red in the mountain ash trees and berries that our feathered friends left behind. Rose hips also kept their red coats on, and the snow, as much as we hate it, improved the tonal quality of the pictures I am taking. I hope you will like the selection of our photo journey to the golf course.
Biene described in vivid detail her mother’s exhausting trips by public transportation and on foot to the government offices in the bigger cities. With unwavering determination, she bypassed the lower-ranked officials. She gained access to the ministers of justice and social services, an incredible feat that only people familiar with the German bureaucracy can understand. In those days, there was no phone service for the general public, no emails, and no Internet search engines that we in the twenty-first century take for granted. With her tenacity and unshakeable resolve, she managed to open doors, scout for invaluable information and find assistance in the fight to recognize their refugee status and Papa Panknin’s pension claim.
To fully understand their situation, we need to go back to 1957. The Panknin family, like so many refugees from the Soviet-controlled eastern part of Germany (GDR – German Democratic Republic), lived in extreme poverty. My father-in-law, former captain of the police force and later commander of an army unit in former Yugoslavia, provided with his meagre income the cost of food and shelter for the family of four. He worked as a dental technician in a lab in a nearby city. What his wife had accomplished by blazing a trail and opening doors to influential politicians, Walter Panknin complemented her efforts by resorting to his powerful writing skills. Reading his elaborate correspondence with the movers and shakers of the government ministries of the West German province of Rhineland-Westphalia, I gained great insight into their struggle for justice. What really impressed me was how the couple worked together as a team. I also learned that despite the glitz and glamour of the economic boom (Wirtschaftswunder), there was something rotten in Germany.