Walter Panknin (1898 -1977) and His Family Ch5 Part 5

Frau Panknin Accused of Theft

Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. This Latin adage, meaning “Times are changing, and we are changing with them,” rings especially true when examining cultural norms for human behaviour. When Papa was a police officer before and during the war, his elevated status in society did not allow him to have his wife working. A man of his rank was supposed to feed his wife and family. Now having been a former officer of the German army, he could not hope to find employment as a police officer in the Soviet-occupied province of Thuringia. Fortunately, he eventually found work as a dental technician at a friend’s dentistry lab. All of a sudden, the honour code of the former police force no longer applied, and his wife Elisabeth was working for a Russian officer who needed help to keep his rather large household organized and running well. For a few hours every day, Elisabeth Panknin had to do housework for him in exchange for a modest wage and some precious victuals from the kitchen. 

Elsbeth, Gertrud

One day when she reported for work, the whole household of the commander was in disarray and upheaval. The commander had lost his precious ring. An extensive search by all the members of the home had been unsuccessful. The ring was not found. Finally, mother Panknin was accused of having stolen it. The commander told her that she had to return the precious object by the following day or face dire consequences. Elisabeth was scared to death. She had seen and admired the ring but had no idea where it was. She spent the night in agony, not knowing what to do. Finally, after many prayers, she decided to offer the commander all her jewellery the next day to prove her innocence.

Mutti Panknin with Little Walter

The following morning, weak with fear and apprehension, she arrived at her workplace. She was immediately sent to the commander’s office, who was holding out his hand when she entered. Frau Panknin could not believe her eyes when she saw the precious ring sparkling on his finger. In his broken German, the commander explained how he had found the ring. When he was getting dressed that morning, he had felt a small object in the lining of his jacket. On further investigation, it felt like his lost ring. He suddenly remembered that he had put it in his jacket pocket for some reason Frau Panknin could not understand. His coat pocket had a small tear in the seam, and the ring had slipped through it into the silk lining. That the ring was found in the nick of time to save my mother-in-law from dire consequences was another miracle. From that day on, the commander rewarded her more generously for her work.