Pancke was born in Gnesen (Gniezno), Province of Posen, German Empire. He served during the First World War as frontline officer with the rank of Leutnant. Between 1920 and 1927 he stayed in South America. He joined the Nazi Party on 1 August 1930, and the SS on 1 June 1931.
Pancke was appointed as Verbindungsoffizier between the Führerhauptquartier and the SS-Totenkopfverbänden and Einsatzgruppen des SD in 1939. After that he served as Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer "Mitte". From October 1943 until the end of the war he was appointed as the SS- und Polizeiführer "Dänemark" and was promoted to Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei on 20 April 1944, and General der Waffen-SS on 21 March 1945.
During his role in Denmark, he became incensed by the refusal of the Danish police to combat resistance forces or to protect factories from sabotage. He ordered the entire national police force, amounting to approximately 10,000 officers, to be arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Approximately 1,700 were arrested, with the balance eluding capture.
After 8 years of imprisonment in Denmark, Pancke was released 1953 and died on 17 August 1973 in Hamburg.