|Eybl, Jan Evangelista|
|*15.11.1882 Mahouš - †21.6.1968 Hrusice|
Eybl served as Feldkurat in der Reserve with Infanterieregiment Nr. 91 from 1 November 1914 to 1 January 1917, overlapping with Jaroslav Hašek at the eastern front from 10 July to 24 September 1915 (except 23 August to 15 September when the field chaplain was on leave). During this period he performed several field masses that Hašek probably witnessed: 11 July Łonie, 17 July Dalnicz, 1 August Opulsko.
He can however not have conducted any field mass for march battalions during the period Jaroslav Hašek was stationed in Királyhida (all of June 1915), as he served with the regiment at the front the entire month. Eybl himself later maintained that he never held any sermon with the content that is described in the novel, and emphasized that 90 percent of what Hašek wrote about his figures who had real life counterparts was thought up.
Fortunately Eybl's documents and photos have been preserved, including his war time diaries. He is therefore probably the person who have contributed most to our current knowledge about the surroundings in which Jaroslav Hašek lived in 1915, environs that to a large extent influenced the novel from Part Two onwards. Eybl's diaries, photos, personal letters, and official documents are preserved at Státní Okresní Archiv in Beroun.
The diaries provide first-hand information directly from the front and are therefore more reliable than any other written material, including army documents. The entries are dated and also indicate where they were scribbled down, and what happened on that day. It is a thorough description of the movements of the regiment, and add details about the weather, who he spent spare moments with etc. The diaries also give a grim insight into the horrors the men had to endure, all the last rites the priest had to give, all the young men he had to bury. It was also the field chaplain's duty to write death certificates and to inform relatives back home about the loss of their sons, brothers and husbands.
Eybl also reveals the privileges the officers enjoyed: wine and decent food, including Gabelfrühstück. The field chaplain was assigned to regiment staff and thus often spent time with higher ranking officers, socializing and playing cards with them in the evening. On the downside (judged by today's standards) he often made derogatory comments about other ethnic groups, particularly Jews and Hungarians. He even used the term, "Jewish nests". Mosty Wielkie which IR 91 marched through 21 June 1915 was categorised as such. That said one of his best friends in the regiment, Robert Dub, was a Jew.
Geographically the descriptions in the diary correspond very well with Inft. Reg. 91 Galizien... bar a minor discrepancy. According to Eybl Jaroslav Hašek's XII. Marschbataillon arrived at the front was 10 July 1915, not 11 July as the mentioned history of IR 91 (1927) states. The diaries contain four volumes, written in Czech and cover the period from 17 November 1914 to 1920. On 28 July 2014 Jaroslav Šerák published an illustrated transcription covering the period that Hašek served in the regiment(see link).
Minulostí Berounska eventually published the three diaries that cover the war, competently edited and commented by historian Miloš Garkisch. Volume one was published in 1914, and the next two followed in 2015 and 2018 respectively. There is currently no plan to publish the 4th volume (it deals with the post-war period until 1920).
Eybl mentions Jaroslav Hašek in his diary and went on a stroll with him and Rudolf Lukas 23 September 1915, the day before the author was captured. Otherwise the two probably had no more than fleeting encounters.
Eybl was born 15 November 1982 in Mahouš by Prachatice, son of Václav and Veronika. His right of domicile was Ondřejov near Krumlov.
He studied at the Czech gymnasium in Budějovice from 1894 to 1902 and obtained good grades, and excelled in the subjects of religion, history, geography and Czech (language). Upon encouragement from his uncle in Kolín (a namesake), he decided on a clerical career and was eventually ordained as a priest on 22 June 1906.
He had been drafted into the army already on 15 March 1902 but immediately assigned as a reserve. His military service seems to have consisted of administrative duties at the Prachatice garrison from 1 December 1907 to 1 March 1913. This was surely part-time as he also worked at the parish of nearby Katovice. From 1913 he held a position at the parish in Netolice where he was still serving when the war started.
In k.u.k. Heer
As Feldkurat in der Reserve, Eybl was not called up immediately on outbreak of war, but his turn was to come. From 1 November 1915 Eybl he is listed in the ranks of IR 91 and from the 17th he served as regimental field chaplain at the front in Serbia. He witnessed the defeat of k.u.k. Heer in Serbia and took part in the withdrawal to southern Hungary.
In Új-Futak (now part of Novi Sad, Serbia) the regiment remained for approx. six weeks. He then followed his unit in their transfer to the Carpathians in early February 1915, and served the regiment spring/summer offensive in Galicia, took part in the fierce fighting by Grodek, Gołogóry and Sokal. He remained at the front until 23 August 1915, but from 27 July to 17 August he was assigned to the division.
Eybl returned to the front on 14 September 1915 and experienced the bloody battle at Chorupan 10 days later, where the regiment suffered more than 900 dead, wounded, and missing. 509 soldiers from IR 91 were reported missing after the battle, amongst them Jaroslav Hašek, Emanuél Michálek and František Strašlipka. The vast majority of them were captured after being caught in a surprise Russian attack in the early hours.
After the battle the fighting subsided and the rest of October passed in relative calm. The regiment spent most of the time in Targowica (ukr. Торговиця), a town at the confluence of the rivers Styr and Ikva. On 26 October 1915 the regiment was inspected by Erzherzog Karl Franz Joseph, and Eybl writes about the heir to the throne in positive terms, even noting that he spoke Czech to the ordinary soldiers. In the meantime it had been decided to transfer Infanteriedivision Nr. 9 to the front in Italy, and on 31 October the march south to the railway station at Rudnia(ukr. Рудня) started. It was however not until the 16th that the journey to Italy started, and they reached Prosecco by Trieste on 19 November 1915.
Eybl was to stay at the front until October 1916, with only had two short holidays in between. He took part in the regiment's short-lived engagement in the mountains south-east of Trento in May/June 1916. From then until 14 October 1916 he was posted with the regiment at the front section east of Monfalcone, i.e. returning to their old positions. That day he suffered a personal tragedy by Doberdò. His brother Martin (who also was his army servant) died before his eyes when they were struck by Italian artillery fire during the 8th Isonzo battle. The field chaplain was wounded in the arm, and sent back to Budějovice for recuperation. His brother's body was transported home and put to rest in Netolice. In 1968 Eybl was buried in the same grave.
Although the diary is largely dry and factual, Eybl from time to time shared his personal thought about the situation he was in. He was appalled by reports of orgies amongst officers behind the lines when ordinary soldiers suffered at the front. He observed drunk officers parading with Krankenscwhestern (nurses), an echo of Švejk in Przemyśl. He couldn't hide his disgust when writing about officer's gatherings that degenerated into drinking binges, and named several of the officers that took part. In 1916 there was even discontent amongst other officers regarding his sermons, and he observed that some of them took notes. He was on good term with most of them though, particularly IR 91's commander Alfred Steinsberg, regimental doctor Robert Dub, and captain Václav Urban. When Steinsberg was replaced by Rudolf Kiesswetter it became less rosy, although he was generally on good term also with this officer. Other of his colleagues were described as horrible, particularly reserve lieutenant Orgelmeister who he seems to have had qualities that reminds one of Leutnant Dub from Švejk. Eybl also mentions Rudolf Lukas, Čeněk Sagner, Franz Wenzel and Oberleutnant Wurm in his diary but without characterising them closer.
After returning to service after his injury, Eybl only rarely served directly by the front line. On 1 January 1917 he had been transferred to k.u.k. Feldsuperiorat in Ljubljana. Almost immediately he was sent back to serve at the army hospital in Prosecco where he often encountered soldiers from IR 91. He stayed here until the hospital in mid November was transferred to Italian territory after the Central Power's victory at Caporetto (Kobarid).
On 23 April 1918 he was (at least according to his Qualifikationsliste) transferred to k.u.k. Feldsuperiorat in Vienna, but his diary reveals that the transfer took place as late as mid-July. Here he served for the rest of the war, travelling to nearby garrisons and hospitals, holding sermons and giving lectures. In Bruck he again met former colleagues from his regiment. He served his last ever holy mass in k.u.k. Heer in St. Pölten on 20 October 1918. Eybl was decorated twice during his time in k.u.k. Heer (1915, 1917).
Although loyal to Austria-Hungary all the time it shines through in his diary that Eybl was first and foremost Czech, and he welcomed the independent Czechoslovakia. The modern reader may also find the hostility towards Jews and Hungarians striking, but at the time these sentiments were widespread in Czech society. This hostility towards non-Czechs is often reflected in The Good Soldier Švejk, but there is one major difference between Eybl's diaries and the novel: the formers lack of anti-German sentiments.
During the war Eybl newspapers repeatedly published his letters from the front. It is confirmed that he contributed to Čech, Tages-Post, Hlas lidu and Jihočeské listy.
After the war he also provided two short tales for Böhmerwald's Söhne im Felde, a veteran's magazine published in Budějovice from 1924 to 1928.
At the end of the war Eybl was immediately transferred to the Czechoslovak army but never actively served here. Returning to civilian life he worked as a priest in various parishes around Budějovice, his longest stay was in Kamenný Újezd, where he retired in 1938. Before that had worked for some time Kuschwarda (now Strážný) on the border with Bavaria. He moved to Beroun 1 October 1939, almost certainly a result of ethnic cleansing when the area became part of the Third Reich.
In Beroun Eybl was involved in the resistance movement, distributed illegal newsapapers and held sermons with anti-Nazi contents. In 1942 he was arrested by Gestapo and spent the rest of the war in prisons: Kladno, Pankrác, and the concentration camps at Terezín (Theresienstadt) and Dachau.
After World War II Eybl returned to Beroun but also spent some time in the Polish border town of Kłodzko by Náchod. After the Communist coup in 1948 he was again in the focus of the authorities, and characterized as a reactionary. On once instance he refused to sign a congratulation letter to Stalin and he also said that "Jesus Christ was also convicted by a peoples court". In 1955 he moved to Hrusice, incidentally the birthplace of famous The Good Soldier Švejk illustrator Josef Lada. This is also where Eybl died, at the respectable age of 86. He is buried in Netolice, the nearest town to his home village Mahouš.
During the upswing in Hašek-research under the Communist regime, stories about Eybl and other models for characters in The Good Soldier Švejk started to appear in newspapers. The first of those surfaced in Dějiny a současnost, and was penned by renowned historian Karel Pichlík. In 1966 Zdeněk Matoušek followed up with a detailed, albeit rambling report in Svoboda. Another contributor was Zdeněk Šťastný, a writer who published extensively on Hašek. Two of his articles involve Eybl: Průboj (1967) and Obrana lidu (1972), with a largely similar content.
Common to these stories is that they are based on personal interviews with the elderly priest, and they focus on his encounters with Hašek shortly before the author was captured 24 September 1915. The stories agree that Hašek tried to report sick and get away from the front and that medical doctor Robert Dub and Eybl tried to help him in this. It was Rudolf Lukas who instigated the move to get Hašek away from the front, as he allegedly wanted to get the troublesome author off his neck. It is also apparent that Dub and Eybl were friends, that Dub was a Jew with family origins around Čáslav, and that the priest even picked a wife for the doctor (from a selection of photos of ladies Dub corresponded with)!
Otherwise the stories diverge, and there are several minor errors, to be expected when someone tries to remember details from 50 years back. The Matoušek version incorrectly claims that Rudolf Lukas married some Miss Bügler from Vienna and moved there after the war. There are also inconsistencies with regards to the numbering of military units (even the famous but fictional 11th March Company crops up).
There is also suspicion that "literary facts" from the novel may have crept in, and particularly Zdeněk Šťastný spiced up his story to align it better with "the reality of Švejk". This "reverse engineering of history" is known from other literature about Jaroslav Hašek, even in the work of serious scholars. The big mystery is how Hašek had anything to do with Robert Dub at all, as the doctor was transferred to IR 91 (at least according to army documents) some days after Jaroslav Hašek was captured …
An upright person
Feldkurat Eybl, as opposed to some other army clerics in k.u.k. Heer (read Ludvík Lacina), did not leave behind a volumous file in the archive of k.u.k. Feldvikariat (Kriegsarchiv, Vienna). His record is exemplary and his diary underpins the impression. He was well liked by soldiers and officers alike, and many of them kept in touch with him after the war. The manner in which he later stood up to the Nazi's to the extent that he ended up in Dachau bears further testimony to his courage and integrity.
Hier, in Lukavica rückte auch unser Feldkurat, der allen 91ern in angenehmer Erinnerung gebliebene Weltpriester Johann Eybl aus Netolitz bei Budweis, derzeit Pfarrer in Kuschwerda (Böhmerwald), sowie als Regimentschefarzt der Assistenzarzt in der Reserve Dr. Löwy aus Karlsbad, zum Regimente ein.
Sources: VÚA, ÖStA, SOkA Beroun, Martin Flosman, Miloš Garkisch, Ivo Pejčoch, Jan Ciglbauer, Jaroslav Šerák, Karel Pichlík, Zdeněk Matoušek, Zdeněk Šťastný
|1.||The book S orlem i lvem I., Příběhy českých vojenských duchovních od 17. století do první světové války Martin Flosman (2019) gives a good and detailed overview of Jan Eybl's life, not only the period of World War I.|
|© 2009 - 2022 Jomar Hønsi||Last updated: 3.10.2022|