Gavrilo Princip


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Gavrilo Princip: the Assassin who started World War I

Gavrilo Princip (1894-1918)

Gavrilo Princip was a sickly man his whole life who died in prison from tuberculosis. His claim to fame is that he was the assassin who struck down the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and set in motion a chain of events that culminated in World War One.

Gavrilo Princip
Gavrilo Princip

He was a member of Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia) a Serbian nationalist organization devoted to freeing Bosnia from Austro-Hungarian rule. They got their weapons from the Black Hand, Narodna Odbrana, a secret terrorist society. He was sent along with two other men, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, and Trifko Grabez, to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand during his visit to Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, a Sunday. He was instructed to commit suicide after killing the Archduke and was given a phial of cyanide, a revolver and grenades. The three assassins traveled to Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzogovina where they met with other conspirators. Each suffered from tuberculosis and did not have long to live. Seven conspirators lined the route from the railway station to City Hall.

One of the men, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, threw a grenade at the Archduke's car. The driver saw it and accelerated, causing the grenade to bounce off the back and explode under the following car, seriously injuring two people. He took cyanide and jumped in the Miljacka River, but did not die - he was captured and arrested. The capsule either did not contain cyanide or was old, and the river was very shallow.

At the reception at City Hall, the Archduke expressed his anger at the attack, and was determined to visit the injured at the hospital. An alternate route was determined to avoid the city center, but the driver did not get the message and started on the original route. When he realized his mistake, he slowed and began to reverse to get out of the street. Gavrilo Princip had gone into a cafe for a sandwhich and saw his unexpected opportunity. He fired at the Archduke and his wife Sophie from 5 feet, hitting the Archduke in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. He tried to shoot himself but policemen captured him and he was arrested.

Eight men were charged with treason and found guilty. Under Austro-Hungarian law Princip could not be executed because he was deemed to be under the age of twenty, though his precise age could not be established. He died of tuberculosis on April 28, 1918.

Archduke Ferdinand's bodyguard - an eyewitness account of the assassination

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

The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

Gavrilo Princip -a detailed description of the assassination

World War I

Part of The Great War Exhibit

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