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The Good Soldier Švejk

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Lukas, Rudolf
*11.10.1886 Nagyvárad (Oradea) - †22.2.1938 Praha
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rudolflukas.jpg

Rudolf Lukas as k.u.k. Hauptmann in 1918

Lukas is easily recognisable as a real-life model of Švejk’s Oberleutnant Lukáš, without this necessarily meaning that he was his only prototype or there being a one-to-one relation.

Lukas was Jaroslav Hašek's superior in Infanterieregiment Nr. 91 from 1 June 1915 until the writer was captured on 24 September the same year. Lukas was company commander in both the 4th company of XII. Marschbataillon from June 1 to July 11, and then 11. Feldkompanie (part of MB3)from July 12 onwards. The officer seems to have held his hand over the writer, and even urged him to stop drinking. The good-will was reciprocated, and this spills over into the novel, reflected in Švejk's gradually warming relationship with Oberleutnant Lukáš and the author’s obvious sympathy for the obrlajtnant.

Lukas' servant in 1914 and 1915 was František Strašlipka, from whom Hašek reportedly borrowed some of the traits he assigned to Švejk, particularly the incessant storytelling. Rudolf Lukas seems to have shared certain qualities with his fictional counterpart: fairness, treating his men well, and even had the same rank in the army. But there are also major differences: Lukas' mother tongue was German, and he was not from the Czech south. He never attended cadet school in Prague, and he was apparently no womaniser.

Early life and career
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From his k.u.k. Heer file.

© VÚA

Lukas was born in Nagyvárad (now Oradea in Romania) in 1886. His parents were Heinrich Lukas and Josefa Skoupy. He had one sister, Ida. His father was an official in the k.u.k. postal services. In 1892 the family moved to Bodenbach (now Podmokly) and in 1895 to Smíchov where young Rudolf spent the rest of his youth. He attended the Lower German Gymnasium in Prague.

In 1903 he embarked on a military career as he completed a preparatory course in Maribor. From 1904 to 1909 he attended cadet school in Královo Pole by Brno. He was no model student and had to retake one year. On 18 August 1909 he joined IR 91, the unit he was to serve with for the next nine years. On 1 May 1912 he was promoted from Fähnrich to Leutnant, and from 1 January 1915 Oberleutnant, the rank that eventually made him famous. Otherwise his Evidenzblatt reveals that he spoke Czech and German fluently, and mastered Croat and French adequately. From 18 August 1909 until 1 September 1911 he was stationed in Prague, and from then until outbreak of war he was assigned to the regiment’s 4th battalion in Budějovice, where his name appears in address books and in the Schematismus.

First year of the war
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Lukas during the war, in his own words.

© ÖStA

On 1 August 1914 Lukas was sent to the front by the Drina (IR 91 arrived on 4 August) and thereafter he took part in the first invasion of Serbia, the battle of Cer (which ended in defeat for k.u.k. Heer). Conveniently he contracted pneumonia on 6 September 1914 so he did not take part in the disastrous attack across the Drina two days later. Here many soldiers drowned after fleeing back to the Bosnian side. He was hospitalised in Bjelina in Bosnia until 27 September.

After a short holiday, he reported in Budějovice on 16 October to teach at the Einjährig-Freiwilligenschule before returning to the front in Serbia on 14 December 1914. During this month IR 91 suffered disastrous losses, three entire companies were captured by the Serbs. Lukas remained with the field unit 13 March 1915 when he reported ill. Thus he took part in the regiment's transfer to the Carpathians in early February and the heavy battles in Východní Beskydy in February and March. He returned to Budějovice for a holiday and recuperation - via Košice where he was in hospital due to neuralgia.

It has not been established whether Lukas met Jaroslav Hašek already in Budějovice, but both were patients in k.u.k. Reserve-Spital at the end of March. On 1 April he was transferred to private care, also in the town. His servant from the outbreak of war until 24 September 1915 was by near certainty always František Strašlipka, their respective dates of front service correspond exactly.

The 12th March Batallion
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Żdżary, 18 August 1915. Officers from IR 91 at the decoration by IR 91/11th company.

© ÖStA

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Signatures (photo above): : Kiehswetter (obst.lt), Sagner (ob.lt), Müller (lt.), Lukas (ob.lt.), Wessely (lt.res), Fehre (lt.), Black (lt.res).

© ÖStA

On 1 June 1915 Lukas returned from his second period away from the front, and was made commander of the 4th company of XII. Marschbataillon. This is also the date when Ersatzbataillon IR. 91 was transferred to Királyhida and from now on Jaroslav Hašek and his obrlajtnant were in regular contact. Lukas was interviewed by Jan Morávek after the war, and told him that Jaroslav Hašek surprised him by being a good soldier who did his duties, but he drank a lot and Lukas had tried to make him sober up.

The 11th Field Company

When the march battalion joined the core of the regiment on 11 July 1915, Lukas took command of the reconstituted 11. Feldkompanie and led them during the brutal battle by Sokal (25 July - 31 July) where he lost half his company. By this time Jaroslav Hašek had already been appointed company messenger (Ordonnanz). During the battle František Strašlipka saved his commander's life by shouting out that an enemy soldier was aiming at him.

After the battle followed four weeks in the reserve by Żdżary (15 km north of Sokal) before a new offensive into Russian territory started on 27 August. IR 91 reached the area by Dubno by 8 September but were forced to withdraw on the 18th. In the early hours of 24 September 1915 parts of IR 91, including the 11. Feldkompanie, were caught in their sleep by a surprise Russian attack. Lukas lost his messenger Jaroslav Hašek and also his servant František Strašlipka, they were both amongst the 509 from the regiment who were reported missing. According to Jaroslav Kejla Lukas and his superior Čeněk Sagner fled in panic and only narrowly escaped capture.

The rest of the war

In November 1915 IR 91 was transferred from the Dubno region to the Italian front by the river Isonzo. Apart from a brief stint with the regiment in South Tyrol, Lukas remained by Isonzo until 15 June 1916, his last day ever at the front. From 1 September 1916 until 31 July 1917 he was posted in Vienna and then at Ersatzbataillon IR. 91 in Bruck, where he remained for the rest of the war. In Vienna he worked as a riding instructor for Meldereiter (dispatch riders), and in Bruck he served as head of the regiment's history group. He was promoted to Hauptmann on 1 February 1918. Lukas was decorated several times, twice with Signum Laudis. In 1916 his third decoration was mentioned by Budweiser Zeitung. For the occasion his sister Miss Ida Lukas, a teacher in Briethal, donated 10 crowns to the blinds of IR 91.

Vormerkblatt für die Qualifikationsbeschreibung für die Zeit von 1. August 1914 bis 31. Mai 1916

Lebhafter engagierter Charakter, tüchtiger Offizier, im Gefechte umsichtig, initiativ, tapfer. Fester, gerader, engagierter Charakter, von netter Denkungsart, mit lebhaftem Temperament. Besitzt ein reifes Fundament und nützliche Kenntnisse, welche er Richtig anwendet. Dementsprechend im Gefecht rasche Auffassung und zielbewusste Durchführung, begleitet von menschlicher Tapferkeit, ein besonders tüchtiger erprobter Offizier. Besitzt hervorragende soldatische Eigenschaften. In der Führung einer Kompanie hervorragend bewährt, besitzt ein gewisses administratives Talent mit praktischem Blick. In der Leitung der Mobilführungsberater versiert. Ist zur Führung eines Baons (Bataillons) vollkommen geeignet. Auf Untergebene disziplinierend einwirkend, von durchdringenden Einfluß, sowie stehts besorgt um das Wohl jedes Einzelnen, Subalterne Offiziere und Chargen sehr gut führend und entsprechend sehr gute Erfolge. Oblt. Lukas ist das Muster d. vorzüglichen, strebsamen, äußerst selbstbewußten, selbsttätigen, vorausdenkenden Offizier, seine Handlungen sind stehts vom Interesse für den Dienste geleitet. © Österreichisches Staatsarchiv. Reinschrift dank Johanna Wallegger, Stadt und Museumsverein Bruck an der Leitha

In military documents Lukas is described as a steadfast character, but also lively and enthusiastic, with a vivid temper. He was a good soldier who treated his sub-ordinates well. He had a disciplining effect on his men, another trait the connects him to his literary counterpart. The verdict from his superiors was that he was fully capable of commanding a battalion. He was quick to react to situations in the field, brave, full of initiative, possessed a certain administrative talent, and was practical in his approach. Lukas was an model of a self-concious and independently minded officer, his actions were always guided by interests of the armed forces.

Marriage and the end of IR 91
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Marriage records from Bruck. Located by Wolfgang Gruber, transcription by Johanna Wallegger, to Czech by Jaroslav Šerák.

On 19 December 1918 Lukas married the 22 year old Anna Marie Bauer (born 26 December 1896). She was the daughter of property owner Karl Bauer and Anna (born Reisenberger) in Alstadt 7, Bruck. Their wedding took place in the town's parish church, witnessed by two officers from IR 91, Kamillo Kettner and Karl Gröbner. The regiment was soon transferred to Enns and during 1919 dissolved. In Enns Lukas lived in Reintalgasse 12.

In court

In Enns Hauptmann Lukas was involved in a controversy with a junior officer Leopold Hopfinger. Lukas accused Hopfinger of having made a movement towards him, and allegedly threatened: "I'll throw you out of the window". The episode took place on 19 September 1919. The case was heard in the brigade court in Linz on 19 November and reported in the local newspaper a few days later. Hopfinger was in the end found "not guilty" after the court decided he was victim of undue behaviour from the captain who reportedly shouted at the junior officers and threatened them with prison.

Czechoslovak officer
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Tagblatt, 23.11.1919

On 13 March 1919 he reported for service in the Czechoslovak Army, and he returned to Bohemia on 13 November and was eventually accepted by the new state's army after having been through the compulsory vetting process and a language course. He became staff captain at the Ministry of Defence in Prague, bud also had stints in Budějovice and in Slovakia. In 1935 he was promoted to major. He even kept some material related to Jaroslav Hašek which unfortunately got lost after his death in 1938. He lived at U Průhonu čp.48 in Holešovice, by chance the neighbour of future communist prime minister Klement Gottwald. His wife moved to Brno after her husband's death, then back to her parents in Bruck (Karel Stránský, fond Zdena Ančík, LA-PNP). During World War II her brother Karl was Nazi mayor of Bruck (Friedrich Petzneck).

Identified as prototype
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Lukas as a Czechoslovak officer.

© Ivo Pejčoch

Already by 1924 Lukas had been identified as a prototype for Oberleutnant Lukáš. In the 16 part series by Jan Morávek in Večerné České slovo in September/October Lukas is interviewed and tells about his encounters with Jaroslav Hašek. Lukas was worried about the author and begged him to stop drinking. Otherwise he reveals that Hašek was a good soldier and that the two had got on well. He also kept some of his poems and other material that he planned to publish after his retirement, but his early death put a stop to that.

More information about Lukas has become available over the years, mainly through the research of Milan Hodík and Ivo Pejčoch who both use material from military and other archives. Otherwise he is mentioned in virtually all literature that exists on the theme The Good Soldier Švejk; including Radko Pytlík, Cecil Parrott, and Gustav Janouch. Apart from published information there are extensive files on him in the war archives in Vienna and Prague, and his marriage record from Bruck (1918) has also been found (courtesy of Wolfgang Gruber).

He also appears in newspapers from time to time. News of promoted officers were always printed, as well as decorations. Apart from the episode at Enns mentioned above, he was involved in a court case against a female tram conductor in Vienna in 1917. After the war he also appeared in Czechoslovak newspapers, and several of them printed his obituary. Here he is first and foremost noted as a model for Oberleutnant Lukáš. In the Literature Archive at Strahov (LA-PNP) there are some unpublished accounts about him, collected by Haškologist Zdena Ančík.

False information

Regarding prototypes of characters from the novel there is a lot of false, outdated or unconfirmed information floating around, be it in books, newspaper articles or on the Internet. This is also the case with Lukas, and the following claims have been disproved:

  • He changed his surname to Lukáš after the war. However, Czechoslovak Army files consistently use Lukas and this is also the name written on his tombstone.
  • He commanded the 11th March Company (such a unit never existed).
  • He married the sister of Hans Bigler (he married Anna Bauer in 1918).

Moreover there is some unconfirmed information/hearsay in circulation: that he was a womaniser, that he dated some Anna Wendler in 1915 (see Katy Wendler). Nearly improbable is the claim by Jan Mikolášek (via Jan Berwid-Buquoy) that Hašek met Lukas in 1920 when the soldier Mikolášek served under Lukas and thus became the inspiration for Major Wenzl's servant Offiziersdiener Mikulášek due to an episode similar to that of the novel. Hašek only arrived in Prague on 19 December 1920, not leaving much time for any meeting that year. Lukas served in Budějovice and Ružomberok that year and only started to work in Prague on 1 June 1921. It is also striking that no other biographer mentions Mikolášek nor any meeting between Hašek and his former superior. Although there is no doubt Mikolášek lived (Berwid-Buquoy, Pejčoch) the story is extremely far fetched, and it is tempting to suggest that Mikolášek was amongst the many who attempted to attach themselves to a celebrity.

The first ever Švejk-society?

On 9 November 1932 a small note appeared in Budweiser Zeitung. It reveals that on 28 October a meeting took place where former officers of IR 91 decided to establish a society called Verein der "Freunde des guten Soldaten Schwejk" (Society of friends of the Good Soldier Švejk). The aim was to invite as members persons who were described in the novel. Staff Captain Lukas himself was present at the meeting and so was reserve captain Jan Maleček who reportedly was the model for some Zugsführer Marek (sic).

Grave being kept
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The grave of Lukas and his mother, Malvazinky, Praha. 12.2.2022

© Jomar Hønsi

Lukas is buried at Malvazinky cemetery in Smíchov and thanks to the initiative of the IR 91 society from Budějovice it is from 2016 onwards being maintained.

Sources: VÚA, ÖStA, Morávek, Bohumil Vlček, Jaroslav Kejla, Wolfgang Gruber, Milan Hodík, Ivo Pejčoch, Jan Ciglbauer

Literature


© 2009 - 2022 Jomar Hønsi Last updated: 27.11.2022