WWII Time Warp Encounter

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.

Old Jules

 Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro)


10 responses to “WWII Time Warp Encounter

  1. Isn’t perspective interesting ? I just finished reading The Book Thief which was from the point of view of death during WWII. I imagine death is just a job to alot of people. Sad.

    • Morning Elizabeth. Thanks for coming by for a read. Yeah, at this moment there are people in slaughterhouses standing over chutes with sledge hammers waiting for the beeves to enter for whacking. Those guys will be doing it all day long except for coffee breaks, whacking a beef animal, watching the next guy down the line attach a hook to hang it for bleeding, skinning and gutting pull it out of the way for the next animal.

      I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to sit at the supper table with one of those guys. “How was work today, honey?” she asks.

  2. Damn!

  3. Great story. My biological father escaped occupied Hungary.

  4. Quite a story he had to tell. My father-in-law was a prisoner of war in Germany during WWII. He was Ukrainian, and when the war was over, he lied and said he was Polish (he spoke many languages) so he didn’t have to get sent back to Ukraine where Stalin was starving everyone to death.

    • Lucky man, your father-in-law. Maybe the most obvious thing a person who wasn’t there has to be grateful for is the fact of not having been there. I appreciate you coming by for a read. Gracias, Jules

  5. My word. I used to interview refugees before I became a mom and accounts like this still make my heart stop.

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