World War I and Archduke Franz Ferdinand Part 1

About the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his assassins and assassination in European history which sparked World War I.


WHEN: 1914

HOW: The news that the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand was coming to Bosnia didn't take long to reach the Green Garland, a restaurant in Belgrade, through a student grapevine. At the Green Garland, 300 students, mostly politicals, met daily, talking mainly of how to get back territory, including Bosnia, that Austria had recently annexed. Three Bosnian-Serb high school students--Cabrinovic, Grabez, and Gavrilo Princip--were intensely interested in the royal visit. They had been planning to kill an Austrian, but were not sure whom, and now a victim far more important than they had hoped for was about to present himself. As they plotted, they were overheard by an officer of Serbian Military Intelligence, Capt. Vogislav Tankosic. He, in turn, told his superior, Col. Dragutin Dimitrijevic, who, in addition to his job in Intelligence, was the head of the Black Hand, a Serbian terrorist organization whose goal was to get back Serbian land which had been seized by other nations. Dimitrijevic was known in the Black Hand as "Apis." His colleagues disagreed about his personality--one described him as a "primitive savage," another as a "genuine patriot." Apis told Tankosic to bring the 3 students to him with the idea that he could aid them in creating a disturbance in Sarajevo, a Bosnian town that the archduke was going to visit. This would create political embarrassments and might help the Black Hand to get into a more favorable position with the Serbian Government.

The 3 students, mere teen-agers, were brought into a dark, candlelit room where Apis sat behind a table that held a skull, a pistol, a bomb, and a vial marked "poison." He made the 3 put their hands on the skull and repeat the Black Hand oath: "By the sun which warms me, by the earth which feeds me, by God, by the blood of my ancestors, by my honor and my life, I swear fidelity to the cause of Serbian nationalism, and to sacrifice my life for it." Apis gave them each a pistol and a grenade. Later they also acquired 6 bombs, 4 Browning revolvers, and some doses of cyanide with which to commit suicide if they were caught. They were sneaked across the border to Sarajevo, where they were hidden at the house of a member of the Black Hand, Danilo Ilic. Ilic was told to get more assassins and train them.

News of the plot reached the Austrian Government, but it reached the wrong man--a confidant of the Emperor, Dr. von Bilinski, who didn't like the archduke. When he told General Potiorek about the danger, he was reminded that civilians shouldn't interfere in military matters. The general decided not to send troops to the town, because he was afraid that the Emperor would be angry if he did. The Emperor, the archduke's uncle, disapproved of the archduke's marriage to a mere countess, Sophie Chotek, and didn't want any pomp and ceremony to accompany their visit. He had already declared the marriage morganatic and had disinherited the couple's children.

The archduke, his wife, and their entourage left Vienna on a Tuesday and spent 4 days at a small village not far from Sarajevo. One of his men urged him to go back to Vienna, because he had heard rumors of assassination plots. The group was nervous. A court photographer carrying a long flashlight hid in the bushes and tried to snap pictures of the archduke and his wife as they passed. He was arrested. The archduke decided not to cancel his visit to Sarajevo, to which he went by railway. He was met at the station and got into the 2nd car, a dark green open one, of a parade going into the city. The archduchess wore a white dress and a big hat; the archduke wore a costume comprised of a light blue tunic and black pants with a cocked hat decorated with ostrich plumes. It was like a comic opera--at 1st. They waved to the crowds, who replied with "Zivio!" Among the crowd were 120 policemen.

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