John Lukacs, the Hungarian-born historian and author of a best-selling book paying tribute to Winston Churchill, has died at the age of 95.
Lukacs died of heart failure early Monday at his home in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, according to his stepson, Charles Segal.
His book Five Days in London was widely cited as a source for Darkest Hour, the 2017 film starring Gary Oldman in an Oscar-winning performance as Churchill.
Lukacs was known for being a maverick among historians and was also sharply critical of the left and of the cultural revolution of the 1960s.
He completed more than 30 books, including several short works on Churchill’s leadership and most famously his “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech.
Lukacs wrote that the speech was at first not well received and that instead of having a unified country behind him, Churchill had to fight members of his own cabinet who wanted to make peace with the Nazis.
“If at that time a British government had signaled as much as a cautious inclination to explore a negotiation with Hitler, amounting to a willingness to ascertain his possible terms, that would have been the first step onto a Slippery Slope from which there could be no retreat,” Lukacs wrote in Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian published in 2002.
“But Churchill did not let go; and he had his way.”
He was born Lukacs Janos Albert in Budapest to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother, though he was a practicing Catholic for much of his life.
By the end of 1944, he was a deserter from the Hungarian army labour battalion, hiding in a cellar, awaiting liberation by Russian troops.
Within months of living under Soviet control, he fled the country on a “dirty, broken-down train” to Austria.
In 1946, he arrived by ship in Portland, Maine, his youthful affinity for communism shattered.
Lukacs was a visiting professor at Princeton University, Columbia University and other prominent schools, but spent much of his career on the faculty of Chestnut Hill College.
He was married three times and had two children.