Family Story Uncategorized

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part I

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

The document, entitled ” Dad’s Diary “, was preserved by Hugi Bakonyi (real name Irén), the daughter of Dr. Bakonyi of Győr, who died recently.  It came to me through Hugi’s daughter and friends. I subsequently discovered that the description had previously appeared on the World Wide Web under the care of Archivnet.  

I publish the diary on our website in six parts, with only minor omissions, each marked with three dots. I do not change the text, except to correct minor punctuation errors and to break paragraphs and longer sentences for ease of reading.

The diary begins on 19 March 1945 in Penc, exactly one year after the German invasion. It was there that Dr Bakonyi decided to write his notes in a diary. This is made clear in the entry of 8 March 1945, towards the end of the diary. The whole story begins on 12 December 1944 (the date of his wife’s last visit). There is some inconsistency in the dating here and there, but it is really not disturbing.

The photographs shown here are not part of the diary, but are for illustrative purposes only. The Google maps presented in today’s format may help a little with geographic orientation.

While editing the diary on our website, I think of my father, Károly Krausz (1903-1983), who, like Dr Bakonyi, tried to break away from his company of forced labourers (muszosok) in the final days of the war, but unlike Dr. Bakonyi, unfortunately, he did not go in the right direction, fell into the hands of ill-willed Russian soldiers and ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Russia. After many long months only, his journey led him back to Győr, where he had ‘no home any more’.

Péter Krausz

So, the diary:

The first page of the diary, Source:

“I write these lines, in which I record the story of my wanderings, with the purpose of recalling things years hence, so that my dear Wife, who is far from me, may, if fate would have it, be informed of my progress while the diary lasts. I therefore ask anyone who may have the diary in their hands to send it to my Wife at the following address: Irén Kőműves, Győr, Erzsébet liget u. 16.A.

Postcard from the labour camp, Source: HDKE

Penc, 19 March 1945

For a long time now, I have been thinking of putting down on paper the events that have happened to me since 12 December 1944, when my wife left Óbarok. Since that time, I have received no sign of her, I hope she has returned home safely. …

The situation is becoming more and more tense, distant flashes are seen in the evenings, the people of the neighbourhood are aware that some villages have already come under Russian authority. During the day, there is almost a constant air raid, but fortunately our barracks camp is not bombed, the company is assigned to road repairs.

… every day I go down to Óbarok and try to learn something new and positive. We three doctors decided that under no circumstances would we go any further, but that if our companies were ordered to move, we would quietly fall behind. In the meantime, events are developing rapidly, a lieutenant and his entourage are moving into our infirmary room, in charge of road repair work, and they are beginning to wagon the more valuable mechanical parts of the mine. … according to leaked reports, the German lieutenant, in view of the threatening proximity of the front, has been constantly urging the departure of the companies in the direction of Komárom since the 18th.

This is, of course, impossible, because on the one hand the roads are taken by the retreating units, and on the other hand our men are so poorly dressed that about ¼ of them are permanently in barracks and do not even go out to work. The roads are under constant attack by Russian planes and, I notice, the company commanders do not want to depart either. The roads are constantly being flooded by German troops, especially supply columns and mechanised units, with many tanks, some of them damaged. A good one pulls 2 or 3 bad ones.

Muszosok at rest, Surce: HDKE

Meanwhile, along the road to Óbarok, 4 German twin anti-aircraft guns had nestled in the fields and were firing at the passing Russian planes, which of course returned fire and now the machine-gunning was almost constant in our immediate vicinity and the shelling could be heard closer and closer.

On the 19th the squadron is no longer going out to repair the roads, because the workplace 6 km away from us is already under heavy threat, the Russians are in the immediate vicinity. The men are permanently in the mine shelters, they don’t even come home to eat properly.

I am normally in the nearby shelter, but we don’t get attacked. In the meantime, I go down to the post office every day and I think it happened on the 18th that I was in the middle of the lucerne when 2 Russian planes came and I came under machine gun fire. I vowed that in future I would cross that part of the field on the run.

The same planes dropped some bombs along the road through Újbarok, with no loss of life. The German Oberleutnant is increasingly urging us to leave and will accept no excuses, but it is impossible to leave for the reasons mentioned above, and it is also impossible to assemble the company, because they are hiding in fear of air raids, and they do not sleep at home at night, but hide in shelters and cellars.

… I slept at home until 20 December, but it was very uncomfortable, my things were falling off the shelf above the sink from the constant shaking, and so I decided to move in with the boys. On Thursday, I completely repacked and brought my belongings and instalments to Óbarok, where we stored them in the Friedreichs’ basement. … the kitchen was no longer working, as our cooks had also seen fit to seek a safer place, in view of the constant air activity. …

On the way to Óbarok, I was stopped twice by the camp gendarmes, but fortunately they did not ask for any writing and were satisfied with my saying that I was a doctor and going to a safer place. On Thursday night I slept at Freiberger and Charap’s, but the situation there was as threatening as at my place and we decided to follow the example of the Friedreichs and spend the time in the cellar. On Friday morning I went up to the company, but there I found complete confusion… Boriska was cooking something in the officers’ kitchen, I said goodbye to her too – I haven’t seen her since, and after picking up a few more odds and ends I went down to Óbarok.

Muszosok and Hungarian Watchdogs, Source:

We’ve been in the cellar almost all day, there’s an endless stream of people retreating down the highway, sometimes planes come and we don’t know what kind, but it’s good to take shelter because they can let go a few machine gun rounds very easily. The farm is also full of German and Hungarian cars, not a very pleasant proximity. The Russian planes are being fired at a great deal but to no effect, meanwhile German long-barrel cannons seem to have been set up around Vázsony puszta and are firing from there in the direction of Felcsút, from where the Russians return fire, the in and out shots are very similar and we are left to guess what the banging was all about.

Our cellar is not very safe, but it is better than nothing, the overcrowding is enormous. …

Óbarok, Vázsony puszta, Google maps

The meals are completely rhapsodic, the lunch is of course interrupted by a plane attack on the highway … The German tanks are firing heavily, one tank has positioned itself between the 2 houses and is firing from there, so at close range. The Russian pilot returns again, and he does not regret the shelling, which has an effect, because the windows of the servants’ house are all smashed.

SS in Transdanubia, Source:

Another tank is parked in front of the church, but its operator seems to have had enough of the war, because he doesn’t fire a single shot and leaves on Friday. Also gone were the twin machine guns set up on the lucernes, … which we were very glad about because they were a constant nuisance. By nightfall, it had quietened down a bit, so Charap, Freiberger and I decided to sleep in the post office room, where we could feel comfortable and at least stretch out. …”

The end of the first part.

Don’t miss the second part, which will tell you that running is a shame but useful, and that the Russians are coming.