The father of a man I used to know had been a Hungarian tank commander on the Eastern front during WWII. (He bore a striking resemblance to an aging Robert Shaw in his role as a German tank commander in Battle of the Bulge). He was there for the Axis invasion of the USSR, all the way to the suburbs of Moscow.
He was captured by the Soviets early in the war before they began shooting their officer prisoners, then exchanged and sent back to Hungary to recuperate. But later as the casualties mounted and the Eastern Front meat grinder demanded more meat, he was sent back.
One of the battles late in the war provided him a ticket to a German Hospital facility and an injury sufficient to keep him there until the surrender. Surrender, by incredible luck, he vowed, to US forces. He was held in a camp while prisoners from USSR-held countries were sent back for mass executions. His membership in the NAZI party in Hungary would have made his demise a certainty.
Disguised as a woman, this man escaped the camp and journeyed to South America. That’s where my amigo was born. Afterward the family moved to Canada. I became friends with his son during the ’70s at the University of Texas where he was several years ‘all-but-dissertation’ for his PHD in Linguistics. His father’s status as a ‘wanted’ war criminal in Hungary remained in force throughout the old man’s entire life.
I asked him once about the Eastern Front experience, knowing he was unrepentant. I’d been carrying a nagging curiosity about it for years.
“Those were heady times,” he smiled, “Kind of fun, actually. Going up against infantry and squadrons of Soviet cavalry in an armored vehicle. Sometimes you might kill a hundred men before breakfast.“
He stopped and pondered a moment.
“Then they got the T-34. That took a lot of the fun out of it.”
I guess it did. The other side never really appreciated how much fun it was, though.
Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro)