One day an event occurred that was balm to my soul. The Soviet air force launched a surprise attack on the air base destroying most planes on the ground. It caught the Germans napping. It was so sudden that there was no time to activate the anti-aircraft batteries.

In the meantime the red army kept advancing. In the month of May the sound of artillery was heard, its crescendo coming inexorably closer all the time. As the Germans were preparing to evacuate the base, our services no longer needed, we were handed over to the Hungarians. That is when I gave serious consideration to the idea of escape. Several days later we were told to prepare to evacuate the following day. The rumor was that we would be shipped to a concentration camp. This didn't sound too aftractive to me. Even though I wasn't aware of the barbaric conditions in the death camps at that time, I felt I had enough of Hungarian hospitality and if I was going to abscond, this was the time to do it. As the volume of the din of war kept getting louder, I calculated that the red army was going to arrive in a few days, a week at most.

So I began looking for a way to escape. Finding a place to hide was no problem. About trnee miles from our barracks, on the way to the air base, was a large shack in which bags of cement were stored which I viewed as the ideal hiding place. To sneak out of the barracks was more complicated. A tall fence surrounded the building, and at night the gate was locked and several guards were placed in strategic positions. You see, we were so valuable to the Hungarians that they didn't want to lose any of us. After looking into the matter I found the perfect solution. There was a double outhouse straddling the fence. One was inside the fence and the other outside. Seperating the two was a wall of loose boards, which I found easy to remove. The plan was complete and I breathed a sigh of relief. Two of my buddies expressed their readiness to escape with me but when the time came they got cold feet and backed out. That turned out to be a blessing as I didn't have to be responsible for anybody but me. That day we received our bread ration, 1 Ib., which I didn't touch until the next day when I was safely ensconced in my hideaway. It was a dark night, pitch black when I made my move. After I walked into the outhouse, removed the two boards and reached the door of the other side, I dropped to my belly and crawled for a while. When I was a good distance away I got up and began to walk. Although visibility was absolute zero, I somehow found my way to the railroad tracks by which I was guided to the warehouse. Once there, I climbed to the top of the cement bags and established my headquarters. The next day, early in the morning, I heard my buddies march by.

For sustenance, I had one pound of bread and a canteen of water. Summoning my willpower I discovered I had,I was living on one thin slice of bread a day. To resist the temptation to eat more wasn't easy but the prospect of being liberated gave me the strength to endure with this meager ration. Thirst, however, posed a serious problem. Try as I might, I couldn't manage on just one or two swallows of water a day and so the canteen was soon empty. Fortunately, just as I was about to become dehydrated, it started raining and rained all day. That night I climbed down, went outside, drank some muddy water from the puddles and filled the canteen. My calculation regarding the arrival of the red army was a bit off the mark. Just when I went into hiding, the advance ground to a halt. It took two weeks for it to resume. About a week after my escape, several Hungarian soldiers moved inside the warehouse, made a campfire and fried salami and bacon. The smoke, traveling up into my face, only intensified my thirst, which became so acute that after two days of this I was willing to trade my life for a drink of water. I climbed down, identified myself and pleaded for a drink of water after which they could execute me. The gave me a drink and led me to their commander. After telling him of my escape, we looked at each other for about five minutes in silence. Then he said I could leave. This was a welcome command not too difficult to obey and I did so with alacrity. Without further ado, I disappeared into a cornfield where I found an abandoned trailer, went inside and found some raw corn and onion peel which provided me with a veritable feast. Looking out the window I saw two Hungarian M.P .'s approaching. They suddenly appeared so close that I was certain they saw me. I hurriedly hid under the bed and they passed apparently without seeing me. This was the second close call that day.


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Boris Segelstein