Today, June 28, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Murdered alongside his wife while traveling through the streets of Sarajevo, it was the catalyst for a series of unfolding events that, one month later, led to Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia. Within one week, by August 5, 1914, Russia was marching west and Germany was at war with five countries, including France and Britain. As the fabric of Europe frayed, the United States maintained its neutrality.
Among historians there is consensus that the shots fired in Sarajevo were the first shots fired in every successive western conflict – the Armistice of the “Great War” set the stage for the spread of fascism, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II. That in turn led to the Cold War and its proxy conflicts within the Middle East and elsewhere. I say this only to highlight the fact that it was an event that set the twentieth century as we know it into motion. Well, this and imperialism.
Below I’m posting the article that appeared in Minnesota’s New Ulm Review on July 1, 1914. In what was supposed to be its Fourth of July issue, buried on the third page, readers from that German-American community heard the news for the first time. Titled, “Kills Heir to Throne,” it’s haunting to read and causes one to wonder: Today, when I open The New York Times or my local paper, which articles will historians look back on a century hence?
Sarajevo, June 29. – Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his morganatic wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated while driving through the streets of Serajevo, the Bosnian capital. A youthful Servian student fired the shots which added another to the long list of tragedies that has darkened the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph.
The archduke and his wife were victims of the second attempt in the same day against their lives. First a bomb was thrown at the automobile in which they were driving to the town hall. Forewarned, however, of a possible attempt against his life the archduke was watchful and struck the missile aside with his arm. It fell under an automobile which carried members of his suite, wounding Count von Boos-Waldeck and Colonel Merizzo.
On their return from the town hall the archduke and the duchess were driving to the hospital when the Servian, Gavrio Prinzip, darted at the car and fired a volley at the occupants. His aim was true, for the archduke and his wife were mortally wounded. With them at the time was the governor of the city, who escaped injury. The bodies of his murdered companions collapsed across him and protected him from stray bullets.
The governor shouted to the chauffeur to rush to the palace at top speed. Physicians were in prompt attendance, but their services were useless, as the archduke and his wife were dead before the palace was reached.
The murders occurred with such rapidity that many persons near the scene did not even hear the shots. The street is very narrow and the assassin fired at close range.
Until the emperor’s wishes are known the bodies will lie in state at the palace here. They doubtless will be interred in the Hapsburg vaults in the Capuehin church in Vienna.