During World War II, John Temple’s parents hid in a Budapest cellar with a French doctor, underneath a home that German soldiers had made their headquarters. After they separated from the doctor, they never reconnected. For the next 70 years, they wondered what had happened to this courageous man who saved their lives. Curious to piece together the past after his parents died, Temple embarked on a search to find this man, known to him only as Dr. Lanusse:

When the book arrived from Europe, for the first time I saw my parents’ lives from the outside. It was like watching a movie, in French, without subtitles. A very dramatic, frightening movie co-starring my mother and father. I had heard snippets from them about living beneath German troops. But I had never heard it as a coherent story, with a beginning and an end. I had struggled to picture it, and couldn’t imagine how my parents survived. And then I read:

We heard a noise above our heads. It was the sound of boots, and then the sound of many boots. We didn’t have time to ask ourselves whether they were German, Russian or Hungarian boots before we heard footsteps in the stairway to our cellar. A German soldier burst in, machine gun in hand, just as surprised to see all of us with our hands up as we were to see him.

I was there, with my parents, nearly 10 years before my own birth. It was terrifying.

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Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.