The Assassination

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Archduke Ferdinand`
Archduke Ferdinand and his family

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An Illustrated History of World War I
by John Keegan


Nowhere was tension greater than in the Balkans. The spark that ignited the powder-keg was the assassination in Sarajevo of the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophia by Gavrilo Princip. He was a member of Narodna Odbrana, a Serbian nationalist organization. The trip was ill-advised due to serious tensions in the area. Many had suggested that the trip be canceled or postponed. In Vienna, Serbian ambassador Jovan Jovanovic visited Austrian finance Minister Bilinski to warn that if the Archduke should visit that "some young Serb might put a live round instead of a blank cartridge in his gun, and fire it." Belinski replied: "Let us hope nothing happens." This warning was not passed on but others had advised the Archduke not to go to Sarajevo. He insisted on taking the trip anyway.

It was a hot June day in Sarajevo when Princip and other Serb nationalists gathered along Ferdinand's route to kill the Archduke. His companion first threw a grenade at the car, narrowly missing it but injring those in the car behind. Princip unexpectedly got his chance after the reception at City Hall when Ferdinand was on his way to visit the injured in the hospital. Princip shot his revolver from 5 feet away and killed Ferdinand and his pregant wife Sophia.

The arms build up of the new industrialized nations, particularly Great Britain and Germany, in the years leading up to the war along with the entangling alliances of European nations, may have made war inevitable. Germany's great minister, Otto von Bismark had prophesied that it would be "Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans" that would set it off. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was that foolish thing in the Balkans, but it was only the trigger that set in motion the events that culminated in World War I.

Gavrilo Princip - a detailed account of the assassination

Archduke Ferdinand's bodyguard - an eyewitness account

Bonjove Jevtic - an eyewitness account from a colleague of the assassin

The Narodna Odbrana Agenda - from a pamphlet of this secret society responsible for the assassination

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