The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2
In Part I you learnt why and how the diary was written, and that the roads were constantly under attack by Russian planes and the German army, especially supply columns and mechanised units, were pouring back, with many tanks, some of them damaged.
Let us continue. The year is now 1944.
Saturday, 23 December
“The farm and the highway are so congested that it almost offers the opportunity for a plane attack, and it won’t be missed. Russian planes are attacking in low flying with terrible machine gunning, impacts in our immediate vicinity. We get some machine gun fire, but no major hits in the village. Some houses burnt and set on fire, the room in the farm …, the cow shed in Vázsony – the cows have been let out and are now wandering in the
I move off, but I only get as far as Mohos, another attack, I am forced to retreat and then go back. … By the afternoon the air activity has quietened down, it is true that there are only occasional vehicles on the highway and I decide to go back up, bring down all the bandages and petrol so that we have lighting, because the electricity had gone out days before, so unfortunately, we can’t use the radio.
The way up wasn’t very pleasant either, but I got everything fixed. In the barracks I met one man, Leon, who was at home as a telephone operator. He had aged at least 10 years in 2 days – company commander and guards are nowhere. I gave Leon 2 blankets at least to keep him warm and recommended him to go to the shelter, where I was soon forced to follow him as a terrible cannon thunder began.
The pre-dinner duel between the German long barrels and the Russian batteries. In the shelter, 2-3 women prayed in Hungarian and German, while grenades flew overhead with wild whistling. Fortunately, nothing lasts forever, so this too was quietened… On the road, to complete my happiness, as I passed the cornfield, planes came, and I thought it better to lie low in the trenches… By the time I reached the middle of the lucerne, they were coming back, but it was already very dark and fortunately they were not firing … But I … when I heard the roar of the machines, I made a run in the wide-open country that would have done any champion credit, until I reached the big pit, where I recovered a little. I then pushed on at a strong pace to reach the Friedreichs’ cellar, where it is much safer after all, or so we think. When I got to them I am told I looked a bit shaken! … By nightfall we settled back in the post office room, but at 11 o’clock there was such a wild shoot-out that we hurried back to the cellar. By the time we got downstairs it was quiet, with only occasional shots from the enemy to signal their wakefulness …
Sunday, December 24
At 5 o’clock in the morning we are woken up by the news that the Russians are already in Vázsony. This news proved to be a fake, but we didn’t go to bed again and waited for what was to come. We saw Hungarian soldiers partly unarmed and un-equipped on the road beside the house going towards Zsámbék, then some German tanks passed by, and by half past eight there were no more Hungarian or German soldiers on the road or in the village.
A strange, frozen silence has replaced the constant noise of the previous days, there is little sound of cannon fire, the people of Vázsony say that the Germans had loaded up during the night, and had taken their long-barrelled guns and towed away their damaged tanks.
Considering that it is morning and I am hungry, it is also quiet, I advocate some food, but I see that the appetite of the cellar people is very weak and only Charap is with me … In the meantime, we are trying to put some order in the cellar, so that at least we can move around. The idiots are ejected, but they only give in to violence, despite the total silence. In the noise of battle, they are so afraid that they cannot be lured out.
Around half past ten the first Russian troops appear, but they only pass through and do not stay with us. More and more Russian troops are pouring in, some of them marching towards Zsámbék and some towards Németháza, but the village and the Friedriechs are getting some of them. In Friedriech’s apartment there are also 10 or so Russian soldiers, while in the post office building there are 4 officers … and they ask for lunch at 2 p.m., so we start to prepare it.
In between, more Russian soldiers come, eat what they can find, but they don’t hurt anybody. A Russian lieutenant likes my wristwatch, so I have to exchange it, I get a woman’s wristwatch instead, which doesn’t work … It seems that this exchange, which took place in the kitchen, was surprised by a Russian soldier who relieved me of my money and the wristwatch I had received. This is war!
Then a man runs barefoot out of the barn, his boots pulled off, and Charap is equally freed from his watch. Despite all the protestations that we are doctors and need the watch, nothing works. “Davaj, davaj” says the Russian, and it must be given to him.
They left around 3 p.m. Leaving a terrible mess behind them, they took nothing but food, and the cupboard doors, although open, were damaged by the visit. Then a detachment of Russian soldiers took Jancsi Freiberger’s medical bag from the post room…
The sound of battle is getting further and further away, and we are calmly picking up the things scattered around the flat, thank God, we have got over that too. The joy proved to be very premature, for by evening the German batteries in the distance began to fire on the village, and it was shot in and shot out. One shell hit the church tower, which caught fire and fell down the next morning when the wooden structure was burnt out. …
Monday, December 25
Christmas Monday, the first day of Christmas.
We almost completely forgot it was a holiday and only remembered it in the quieter hours of the morning. … after 10 o’clock the air activity started again and we received air raids to the south, this time for a change the Germans were machine gunning the village. I was bandaging a wounded Hungarian soldier in the house near the highway, … the poor fellow must have been dead since then – he had a nasty big gap wound on the left side and his right elbow was shot away too. We tried to keep to the corner of the room to avoid any trouble. … I started towards our safer-looking basement apartment. On the way, of course, there was another wave, and I ran into the cellar, flattening myself against the wall.
Meanwhile, the noise of fighting can be heard nearer or further away, but the arriving news is not very encouraging. The Germans are very close and we are trying to think what to do. …
We decide that as soon as the situation is clear, we will move on and leave the Friedreichs to their fate. So far, we have represented the family and we have negotiated with the Russians if necessary. By 3 p.m. there was a lull in the firing and no cannonading, but small arms fire could be heard in the immediate vicinity. The incoming news was that the Germans were back in Vázsony, Russians were hardly to be seen, and the Russians who had appeared here and there were all moving towards Bicske. The situation is very uncomfortable, we don’t want to fall into German hands again under any circumstances, so we have to go.
We take only a side bag, but the Russians at the mine office laugh at us for our concerns, … so we decide to go back for the rest of our belongings. Just in time, as a woman with a broken leg has been brought in, we put it in a splint and after another emotional goodbye, we set off. We head for Székesfehérvár. First stop Felcsút, where we intend to spend the night at the Tessényi’s. We set off well packed and tried to get over the railway embankment as quickly as possible, … in the meantime Freiberg’s Red Cross badge was torn off by a Russian, but no other trouble happened.
Near the oil depot we were joined by a young Russian soldier who took a great fancy to my boots and I was forced to part with them, but again in exchange. The only fault was that the boots I received were too tight and I could not walk in them. With great difficulty we got to nearby Felcsút, where a guard checked on us. While we waited there, I exchanged the tight boots for Jancsi Freiberger’s half-boots, which were slightly too large but wearable. After the exchange, the guard led us to the headquarters, where we left all our belongings and were driven off to roll petrol drums.
When we were done, we were let go without further ado, told to move on. Of course, they did not give us any papers. On arriving in Felcsút, we found out that we could not sleep at Dr Tessényi’s because the Tessényi family were not at home and their flat and surgery had been completely looted. Since we couldn’t find a place to sleep in Felcsút, because there were so many Russian soldiers everywhere, we continued on to Alcsút, where we arrived in the dark. We had no special adventures on the way, except exchanging gloves with a Russian soldier, but at least here I got gloves that were usable, even if worse than mine. In Alcsút we managed to find accommodation with a retired printer who welcomed us and even protected us at night from the Russians who were trying to enter.
The end of the second part.
Don’t miss the third part, which will tell you that medical supplies, medicine and good shoes are a great treasure at the front. Who cares about dry gunpowder!
Featured image: In a forced labour camp, Fortepan