28 June-2014, AFP: Sunny Sarajevo was in festive mood on June 28, 1914 for the visit of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But it was to be a dark day, and one that changed the world.
By 11 o’clock, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire would be dead, an assassination that plunged Europe into four years of horrific conflict that killed millions.
“There were flags everywhere, the whole city was covered with flags. As children, we had to stand in the front,” one witness told Austrian radio in 1994 for the 80th anniversary.
Armed with bombs and guns and blending into the crowd along the archduke’s route were half a dozen Bosnian Serb nationalists bent on freedom from Austro-Hungarian rule.
The night before the group had been partying in Sarajevo cafes and Gavrilo Princip, the sallow-faced 19-year-old who would shoot the archduke and his wife, even had a date with a young girl called Jelena Jezdimirovic.
“They decided to have an ‘ordinary’ evening, not to hide, in order not to attract attention,” Bosnian historian Slobodan Soja told AFP.
Franz Ferdinand, resplendent in military tunic and plumed hat and in the region for army exercises, was in an open-topped car with reduced police protection on his way to city hall.
The first three militants, paralysed with fear, let the motorcade pass but a fourth, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, was able to lob a bomb – which bounced off the archduke’s car and exploded under the vehicle behind.
A fatal error
General Oskar Potiorek, military governor of Bosnia, assured the archduke the situation was under control, but if Franz Ferdinand thought his troubles were over, he was wrong.
After the ceremony at city hall, the 50-year-old decided to visit the hospital where people injured in the bomb attack were being treated.
But driving back along the Miljacka river, the convoy took a wrong turn up a small street on the right – named after the emperor Franz Joseph – and had to stop and turn round.
“That was a fatal error,” writer and Sarajevo chronicler Valerijan Zujo told AFP.
Believing that his group had failed and with Cabrinovic arrested, Princip, rejected two years earlier by the Serbian army as “unfit” to carry a weapon, was still mingling in the crowd.
And now, the archduke’s Graef und Stift automobile stopped right next to him.
“The archduke was served up to him on a plate,” said Soja.
Stepping up the car, 19-year-old Princip shot both the archduke and his wife Sophie at close range with a revolver, he in the throat and she in the abdomen.
“As the car quickly reversed, a thin stream of blood spurted from His Highness’s mouth onto my right check,” recalled Lieutenant Colonel Count Franz von Harrach.
“As I was pulling out my handkerchief to wipe the blood away from his mouth, the Duchess cried out to him, ‘For God’s sake! What has happened to you?’. At that she slid off the seat and lay on the floor of the car.”
Franz Ferdinand repeatedly insisted “It is nothing!”, but he gradually lost consciousness and he and the archduchess were pronounced dead 15 minutes later after arriving at the royal residence.