The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk is a novel with an unusually rich array of characters. In addition to the many who directly form part of the plot, a large number of fictional and real people (and animals) are mentioned; either through Švejk's anecdotes, the narrative or indirectly through words and expressions.
This web page contains short write-ups on the persons the novel refers to; from Napoléon in the introduction to Hauptmann Ságner in the last few lines of the unfinished Book Four. The list is sorted in to the order of which the names first appear. The chapter headlines are from Zenny Sadlon's recent translation (1999-2008) and will in most cases differ from Cecil Parrott's version from 1973. In January 2021 there are still around twenty entries to be added.
The quotes in Czech are copied from the on-line version of The Good Soldier Švejk: provided by Jaroslav Šerák and contain links to the relevant chapter. The toolbar has links for direct access to Wikipedia, Google maps, Google search, svejkmuseum.cz and the novel on-line.
The names are coloured according to their role in the novel, illustrated by the following examples: Dr. Grünstein who is directly involved in the plot, Heinrich Heine as a historical person, and Otto Katz as a fictional character. Note that a number of seemingly fictive characters are inspired by living persons. See for instance Oberleutnant Lukáš and Major Wenzl.
Titles and ranks have until 2020 largely been missing on this web page. Senior Lieutenant Lukáš has, for instance, only been known as Lukáš. This weakness is now (24 December 2020) slowly being addressed. Military ranks and other titles related to Austrian officialdom will appear in German, and in line with the terms used at the time. This means that Captain Ságner is still referred to as Hauptmann although the term is now obsolete, having been replaced by Kapitän. Civilian titles denoting profession etc. are mostly translated into English.
|IV. The famous thrashing continued|
2. Spiritual consolation
|Oberleutnant Wurm, Johann|
|*22.3.1884 Smíchov - †? 19??|
Wurm was an obrlajtnant in Budějovice who Švejk told Feldkurat Martinec about during spiritual consolation in the cell in Przemyśl. It was a very long anecdote about the plight of officer's apprentices who were neither officers nor rank and file soldiers. They were not allowed to eat in any of the canteens as Wurm forbade them to use the soldier's canteen as this was below their dignity. They were not allowed in the officer's canteen in the first place and were thus left suspended in thin air.
Wurm was an officer in k.u.k. Heer, Oberleutnant in k.u.k. Infanterieregiment Nr. 91 until 1 July 1915, then promoted to Hauptmann. Apart from no doubt being the person Švejk talks about in the cell in Przemyśl, it is also possible that Wurm partly served as inspiration for the grotesque Fähnrich Fähnrich Dauerling.
Field chaplain Jan Eybl noted in his diary that Wurm commanded a march company that arrived at the front by Jaworzec in the Carpathians on 16 March 1915. Timing-wise this indicates that they were part of the 7th march battalion. At the time Ersatzbataillon IR. 91 was still located in Budějovice, so it is very likely that Hašek knew Wurm, because the former served there from 17 February and the 7th march battalion probably departed around 8 March. Eybl also notes that Wurm was a nephew of Field Marshal Wenzel Wurm (he was mistaken regarding the rank: Wurm was in 1915 Feldzeugmeister).
Ranglisten und Schematismus
There is only one person on the list of officers (Ranglisten) from IR 91 that fits the description that Eybl gives. This person is Johann Wurm, born in 1884 in Prague. The list reveals that he was promoted to captain on 1 July 1915 and thus his rank in March was Oberleutnant, exactly as Jan Eybl noted. This was a rank he achieved on 1 November 1912 and he had served as lieutenant since 1 May 1907. In his early career he served in k.u.k. Feldjägerbataillon Nr. 7 and from 1907 in Feldjägerbataillon Nr. 22.
Any Johann Wurm born in 1884 is not listed in the Prague police records, but the details of a certain Hans Wurm fit well. The names Hans and Johann were to a degree interchangeable (Hans Bigler is another officer who appears with both names). Lieutenant Wurm served with k.u.k. Infanterieregiment Nr. 75 in 1911 and he lived in Vinohrady Hálkova tř. 379/12 (today Londýnská 379/73).
Before the war
With the help of newspaper stories it has been possible to piece together more details from Wurm's career apart from what is already mentioned. 22 May 1909 he was involved in an incident in Jindřichův Hradec where he during a clash with a Sokol instructor drew his sabre and slashed his opponent's hand.
Wurm was son of factory manager Josef Wurm, who ran an oven- and iron foundry in Podbořany (Podersam). The German press used the names Hans and Johann interchangeably, although Johann was more common. The Czech press predominantly used Jan, although Hans also occurred.
Serving in IR 91
Newspapers reveal that he during spring 1914 was transferred from k.u.k. Infanterieregiment Nr. 75 to IR 91/1st battalion). After the outbreak of war he served with this battalion in southern Dalmatia and in Serbia where he was commander of the 4th company. Some time between 6th and 8 October 1914 he was wounded (shot in the foot). He was brought to hospital and was also awarded the Signum Laudis. According to a list of injured he was sent to a reserve hospital in Kroměříž (Kremsier) in Moravia. Prager Tagblatt noted that on 7 February 1915 he appeared in a celebration for decorated officers in Dirnfellern (Suché Vrbné) by Budějovice where the 7th march battalion were exercising. It was added that he had been severely wounded but was still returning to the field.
Details from the rest of the war are only available in fragments. A brief note in Prager Tagblatt 21 November 1915 reveals that he was decorated for the second time for his endeavours on 24 September 1915. This was during the battle by Chorupan where Jaroslav Hašek, František Strašlipka, Emanuél Michálek and hundreds of their fellow soldiers from IR 91 were captured. In 1916 he was decorated for the third time and he was still with IR 91.
Arrested as spy
In May 1921 Wurm entered the Czechoslovak army as staff captain at the Ministry of Defence (MNO) where he acted as a liaison officer with Parliament, serving German members. He was however arrested on 7 October 1922 as a suspected spy. During the same operation two other officers, Gustav Wolf and Georg Nowakowski had already been detained. The case was tried before a military court in December.
Court proceedings commenced on 11 December at 9 in the morning, and was conducted at the military court at Hradčany (see Vojenský soud). Parts of the trial were closed to the public. The prosecution provided a 24 page charge against the three, which roughly contained accusations of spying and treason. Wurm was accused of having passed on a restricted document against a reward of 3,000 crowns. The recipient was Jaroslav Philipp, a former k.u.k. officer and now an agent in Polish service. Wurm was also suspected of having passed on more restricted material to the named contact. Wurm was alleged to have been in contact with the convinced monarchist Philip already from the time he entered service in the Czechoslovak Army.
All in all 13 persons were called in to testify and provided 91 pages of witness accounts. Additionally, experts on psychiatry, handwriting and photography, testified. The first person to be interrogated was staff captain Wurm. During the questioning on 11 December he confessed to having passed sensitive material on to Philipp, but claimed to not have known what the recipient needed it for. He admitted to having accepted 3,000 crowns for the documents, as he found himself in a difficult financial situation.
The next day the proceeding concerned only Wolf and Nowakowski, but on 13 December Wurm's name is mentioned during interrogation of witnesses. It was said that "although he was of Czech origin he harboured German national political convictions". Another witness, a relative of Wurm, spoke about the accused as "power-mad, unsympathetic and not well liked, even amongst comrades".
Witnesses who knew him from the time in k.u.k. Heer describe him as a brutal, vain and inconsiderate officer, and primarily towards Czech soldiers. Examples of his cruelty are given: he once punished his horse with two days starvation for having thrown him off, and also shot his own dog when the animal didn't obey.
During the afternoon court proceedings on 13 December a psychiatric expert stated that "Wurm could be described as physically and spiritually degenerated" but it could not be concluded that he was (other had been) mentally ill. It was also revealed that Wolf's confession upon his arrest led directly to the detainment of Wurm.
Wurm's defender, Major Řehák, argued for a complete aquittal. He stated that "it was inconceivable that Wurm would jeopardise his entire existence for such a small amount", that "Wurm was an accommodating person who acted under pressure from Philipp". The judge ought to consider the following mitigating circumstances: a hitherto spotless record, the difficult situation of the accused: financially and mentally, moreover the family. Wurm also held a final appeal where he wept and explained the difficult situation he and his family were in, and asked for a lenient verdict.
The verdict fell on 15 December and all the three accused were convicted. It was concluded that they all betrayed their country for financial reasons, giving them a harsher sentence than if their motives had been national or political. Wurm was given a four and a half years under hard terms: fasting once a month and a solitary cell the last month every half year. He was also deprived of his officer's rank and lost the right to vote during the term of his imprisonment. Wurm was sent to Terezín to serve his sentence. Nowakowski was sentenced to eight years and Wolf three.
Information from the press
Newspaper reports from the trial revealed further details about Jan Wurm (as he was called in Czech). He was born in Smíchov 22 March 1884, went to German schools, including k.u.k. Infanteriekadettenschule Prag. He enlisted in the army in 1904 after having served as a one-year volunteer. He declared himself with German nationality but spoke good Czech. He had three children who went to German schools. At the time of the court case the family lived in Dejvice in a flat belonging to his wife. This must have been his second wife because his first wife Mathilde (born Hartmann) died 16 October 1918 at the age of 29.
Venkov, Prager Tagblatt and Budweiser Zeitung confirm Eybl's information that he was nephew of Colonel General Wenzel Wurm. Venkov adds that the latter committed suicide (he died in Vienna 22 March 1921), but Lidové noviny and Innsbrucker Nachrichten wrote that he died from natural causes. Budweiser Zeitung astonishingly claimed that Wurm was Czech, that his father and his famous uncle both were Czech chauvinists and hostile to Germans.
The registration documents of his father finally sheds light on Wurm's background. He was son of Josef Wurm, born in Penzing by Vienna 17 March 1857. His mother was Karolina, born Schück in 1860. The parents married in 1881 and Johann Wurm was born on 22 March 1884 in Smíchov. He had one sister, Karolina, born in Prague 3 December 1882. His grandfather Josef was a Oberleutnant. The family moved to Nové Strašecí in 1892, and then to Podbořany. Until then they had lived in Vinohrady.
What happened to Wurm after he was released from prison is not known. In the summer of 1932 it was reported that he attended a gathering of war veterans in Volary (Wallern). He was still alive in 1938, and spoke during a meeting of former front soldiers in Vimperk (Winterberg) on 13 or 14 August that year. Thus he would certainly have witnessed the German annexation of Sudentenland a few months later. If he was still alive in 1945, he was surely expelled from Czechoslovakia.
The very last mention of him that has been found so far is from Budweiser Zeitung 14 February 1940. Again it was a report from a gathering of war veterans (now under the umbrella of the Nazi party), but this time it wasn't any longer Wurm himself who spoke, but others who talked about him. This indicates that he may already have died.
It not known whether or not Wurm continued to live in Prague after being released. Three Jan Wurm are listed in the address book from 1937, but it is impossible to tell whether any of them is identical to the former officer. None of the three lived in Dejvice.
Recent investigations (VÚA, 22 November 2018) of Wurm's documents from k.u.k. Heer confirm much of what we know from other sources, and also provide additional details. Here we will however focus on those that touch on IR 91 during the war, and briefly on post-war Czechoslovakia.
Wurm served by 1st battalion in Dalmatia and Serbia from the outbreak of war. He was wounded on 2 October 1914 and was only back at the front with the 7th march battalion. This unit left Budějovice on 8 March 1915 and on arrival in the Carpathians he assumed command of the 14th field company. He fell ill with pneumonia and typhus on 2 April, and spent some time at a hospital in Kroměříž. From 10 May he worked at the draft board of k.u.k. Infanterieregiment Nr. 75. From 26 July 1915 he was back with IR 91 and the 14th march battalion. From 19 September he was again in the field, now by Chorupan. Wurm took part in the battle here five days later, and with the regiment transferred to the Isonzo-front in mid November.
On 10 January 1916 he fell ill again and after a week at a hospital in Laibach (Ljubljana) he was transferred to Bruck an der Leitha where he was made commander of IR 91 1. Ersatzkompanie. Here he served until 14 April 1916 when he was transferred to k.k. Landwehr draft commission no. 3 in Prague. From this period his documents reveal that he again volunteered for service at the front. His application was however rejected as his health condition was poor and the regiment also need experienced instructors behind the lines.
From 8 July 1916 he commanded the 23rd march battalion and on 29 August they left for the front. On 8 February 1917 he reported ill and was transported to a hospital in Ljubljana and after recuperation again served at a draft board until 20 June, presumably in Prague. Until 3 December he was battalion commander by IR 91/1st battalion and then at the 28th Rifle Regiment, 3rd battalion (k.k. Landwehr). Then he spent the time until 10 April 1918 in hospital in Prague, again with lung problems. From 30 April he served Jägerregiment Nr. 137, the machine gun section.
Details about his career in the Czechoslovak army are revealed and these correspond well to what was written in newspapers during the court case. It is also added that he didn't serve out his prison term, as he was released on probation after three years. His three children were born in 1912, 1914 and 1916 respectively, two daughters and one son. The verdict from the spy case was accurately reported in the newspapers. There is no additional information that can shed light on his fate after having been released from prison.
Devil dressed as a human
The recently published book "Jednadevesátníci" (Jan Ciglbauer, 2018) casts a dark shadow on Wurm as a person and officer, and largely confirms the damaging testimonies that were given during the spy trial in December 1922. Ciglbauer notes that Wurm's name strikingly often appears in the notes and diaries of veterans from IR 91, and in the worst possible light.
For instance the book refers to an article in the magazine Kamarádství from 1937, where J. Hospodářský, a former soldier from IR 91, describes Wurm as an incredibly brutal officer, abnormal in his behaviour. The whole regiment feared and hated him, including his fellow officers. As commander of 1. Erstatzkompanie in Királyhida in 1916 he once mistreated his horse at Batailionsraport because it became restless. In addition he "sentenced" the animal to two days in the stables without food and water. He also once had his wife escorted away by four armed soldiers when she entered the training ground (where civilians were strictly forbidden to be during exercising). He is reported to have shot soldiers for trifles, and once had his servant tied up for two hours because because he failed to bring water in time. Hospodářský describes Wurm as "a devil dressed as a human, in uniform".
The arrested horse
The story about the horse also appeared in newspapers around the time of the spy process, in the form of testimonies.
The similarities between Wurm and the novel figure Fähnrich Dauerling are striking, at least in the way the two tyrants treated common soldiers. Jaroslav Hašek however only crossed paths with Wurm for three weeks in early spring 1915 and again briefly in the autumn, and they didn't serve in the same companies. Still the author would surely have heard about Wurm's antics, and may have been inspired by these when creating his grotesque Dauerling figure.
In his series "Jaroslav Hašek - the Good Soldier Švejk" (Večerní České Slovo, 1924) Jan Morávek mentions a captain Wimmer who was replaced by Rudolf Lukas as commander of Hašek's march company shortly before they were transferred from Budějovice to Bruck an der Leitha. Lukas assumed command of the 4th company of XII. Marschbataillon on 1 June 1915, and Ersatzbataillon IR. 91 were transferred to Bruck the same day. Wimmer allegedly tyrannised the soldiers and subjected his horse to disciplinary measures.
A certain captain Otto Wimmer did actually serve in IR 91, but that the regiment was burdened with two such lunatics is unlikely. Jan Morávek adds that "Wimmer appeared in the newspapers about a year ago" and this roughly fits the timing of the spy trial (Morávek had his series published in September 1924). It is therefore likely that Morávek mixed up Wurm with Wimmer, and thus undeservedly tainted the latter as a brutal psychopath. In Wurm's military service record he is however reported to have been on sick leave at the time. One explanation could be that Wimmer indeed was the person replaced by Rudolf Lukas, but that Morávek somehow swapped Wimmer and Wurm later.
V edici je Eyblův záznam z 16. března přepsána takto: "Spal v márnici. Naše vojsko je zahrabáno, na útok nepomýšlí. Proti nám stojí čerstvé vojsko, minský a jekatěrinoburský pluk. Došla marškumpanie, kterou vedl nadporučík Wurm, synovec Feldmaršála Wurma."
Quote(s) from the novel
Měli jsme jich tam tenkrát pět a ze začátku vám to žralo v kantině samý syrečky, poněvadž mináž nikde nedostali, až tam na ně přišel takhle jednou obrlajtnant Wurm a zakázal jim to, poněvadž prej se to nesrovnává se ctí kadetštelfrtrérů, chodit do kantiny pro manšaft.
Sources: Petr Novák, Eybl, Jan Ciglbauer, ÖStA, VÚA
Růžena Gaudrsová was a woman who had been employed in a vinárna in Platnéřská ulice. She sued 18 men in a paternity cases but ended up in Nový Jičín. This is mentioned by Švejk as an apropos to Feldkurat Martinec' birthplace.
Quote(s) from the novel
„To snad znali, pane feldkurát, nějakou Růženu Gaudrsovou, byla předloni zaměstnána v jedný vinárně v Platnéřský ulici v Praze a žalovala vám najednou osmnáct lidí pro paternitu, poněvadž se jí narodily dvojčata.
Faustýn was a friend of Švejk from the time he lived in Opatovická ulice. Faustýn was a hotel porter and could arrange all shades of female company. These are all facts that Feldkurat Martinec is made aware of by Švejk in the cell in Przemyśl.
Quote(s) from the novel
Když jsem bydlel v Opatovickej ulici, tak jsem tam měl jednoho kamaráda, Faustýna, vrátnýho z hotelu. Byl to moc hodnej člověk, spravedlivej a přičinlivej. Znal kdejakou holku z ulice, a mohli by přijít, pane feldkurát, kterejkoliv čas noční do hotelu k němu a říct mu jen: ,Pane Faustýne, potřebuju nějakou slečnu,’ a von vám hned svědomitě se optal, jestli blondýnku, brunetu, menší, vyšší, tenkou, tlustou, Němkyni, Češku nebo židovku, svobodnou, rozvedenou nebo vdanou paničku, inteligentní nebo bez inteligence.“
|IV. The famous thrashing continued|
2. Spiritual consolation
|© 2009 - 2021 Jomar Hønsi||Last updated: 27.1.2022|