20th Century's 5 Most Significant Political Assassinations

A photo of Gavrilo Princip following his arrest.
A photo of Gavrilo Princip following his arrest.

Gavrilo Princip was a 19 years old when he assassinated the Archduke of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Princip was born a Serb but grew up in Bosnia. There, he became a Bosnian nationalist through his membership with Mlada Bosna — Young Bosnia. The group’s purpose was to unify Bosnia. This was not an easy task.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

A plan was hatched to assassinate the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Franz was being given control over Austrian acquired territories in Bosnia. Killing him was part of a plan. If things went well, Bosnia would be released from Austria’s clutches. The idea was that the Balkans would fight Austria. They did not necessarily calculate the likely-hood of their assassination attempt as a trigger for setting World War into motion.

Gavrilo Princip was one of six nationalist sent on a mission to assassinate Franz Ferdinand. Franz and his wife were arriving in the morning by train. The six assassins, including Gavrilo, were given different instructions. At one place along the Archdukes route, one of the six nationalists would use a bomb. In another place, a hand grenade, and so on.

Sarajevo_princip_bruecke

It was by chance that none of the plotted attempts worked. When the Archduke and his wife were within firing range, Gavrilo aimed his gun and delivered a fatal blow to each of them. Unlike his companions whose attempts failed, the small, determined 19 years old was successful. As the story unfolds, six conspirators lined the route. Each kept enough distance between himself and the other five assassins as to increase their chances of success. Their instructions were straight forward. Each was to attempt to kill Franz Ferdinand when in the procession of cars, his reached the assassins position.

The car first passed, Muhamed Mehmedbašić who was beside the Austro-Hungarian Bank. It was from that postion he was planning to launch a bomb attack. As the Royal car approached, fear overtook him. Some minutes later at 10:15, the parade passed the police headquarters. Nedeljko Čabrinović did not hesitate. He tossed a hand grenade towards the Archduke’s car whose driver realized they were under siege, hasten to move the automobile. The bomb had a 10-second delay and exploded under the wheel of the fourth car in the six car procession. It exploded, wounding those inside.

The crowd of spectators reacted, and chaos erupted on the streets. The remaining assassins would decide whether to flee or continue with their mission, making split second decisions within the thunderstorm of confusion that has been unleashed.  Princip held his position. He was next to Moritz Schiller’s café. Having taken a wrong turn, the Archdukes’s car drove past. The driver abruptly brought the car to a stop. While placing it in reverse to correct the turning error, the engine stalled. Princip stood before an open window of opportunity. From five feet away was the Archduke and his wife. Princip did not hesitate. He drew his gun and squeezed off two shots. One for the Archduke and one for his wife.