Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Event that Sparked World War I: the Plot and Plotters

The previous posts were about the men who were directly involved in the plot to assassinate Franz Ferdinand: Gavro Princip (the man who killed Franz Ferdinand), Nadjo Cabrinovic, Danilo Ilic, Trifko Grabez, Vaso Cubrilovic, Mehmed Mehmedbasic, and Cvjetko Popovic. These men were present, armed with pistols or grenades or both when Archduke's motorcade passed through Sarajevo. Veljko Cubrilovic, the elder brother of Vaso Cubrilovic, was not present in Sarajevo on the day of the assassination but helped Gavro Princip and Trifko Grabez smuggle the weapons that would bring Franz Ferdinand's life to an end into Sarajevo.

After the assassination the Empire charged a number of me, in addition to the above eight, with the conspiracy to kill the Heir Apaprent. Two of the men were Lazar Djukic and Ivo Kranjcevic.

Lazar Djukic:

Djukic was an active member of the ‘Young Bosnians’ in Sarajevo, whose full-time occupation was to plot the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Bosnia. Like the rest of the plotters, he was young.

Danilo Ilic approached Djukic around Easter 1914 to sound him out about participating in the plot to assassinate Archduke.

Ilic met Djukic one day and tried to turn his head by telling him stories of how Archduke’s assassination would enhance Serb nationalism and the militant spirit among the young Serbs in Bosnia. It might even spark a revolution in Bosnia.

Despite Ilic’s fiery oration Djukic declined to take a direct part in the assassination. He however promised to find another participant for Ilic.

After that every time the two men met Ilic would pester him whether he had found anyone.

One day, while walking on the streets of Sarajevo Djukic spotted Vaso Cubrilovic. Djukic had found his man.

Djukic introduced Cubrilovic to Ilic. Djukic would pay dearly for this.

Djukic was charged with participating in the conspiracy. In the court Djukic claimed he was a contended subject of the Empire and insisted that he had nothing against the monarchy. He also claimed that he never really took the plot seriously (in fairness, the assassination plot of Gavro and Danilo was probably one of the many that were being brewed in the frenzied minds of young Serbians in Sarajevo). Djukic was probably speaking from personal experience, having been involved in an earlier plot in 1912 (he would have been only 16 at that time) to assassinate the Emperor Franz Joseph himself on his state visit to Sarajevo, which was abandoned as speedily as it was hatched. None of this would save Djukic. He would be sent to gaol.

Ivo Kranjcevic:

Kranjcevic was a 19 year old business student in Sarajevo, and a member of the ‘Young Bosnian’ nationalist association. He was the only Croat involved in the conspiracy, albeit indirectly.

One day in the summer of 1914, a month before the assassination, Kranjcevic ran into Cvjetko Popovic on a street. Popovic cheerily informed him that he was thinking of assassinating the Archduke when he visited Sarajevo in June. Kranjcevic told him that that would not only be dangerous, it would not achieve anything. Popovic shrugged his shoulders and changed the subject.

A few days later Kranjcevic ran into another plotter, Vaso Cubrilovic, who, like Popovic, seemed to have no trouble in talking freely and openly about the assassination (despite his repeated exhortations to Ilic that secrecy was paramount). Vaso informed Kranjcevic that he too was thinking of assassinating the enemy of the Bosnian people. Kranjcevic told Cubrilovic the same thing he had told Popovic.

Then Kranjcevic became curious. The curiosity would bring about his eventual downfall. He asked Cubrilovic where the weapons were going to come from for the assassination attempt. Cubrilovic had no idea from where and how the weapons were going to come into Sarajevo. Ilic had told him that he would take care of that part. But Cubrilovic did know that Ilic was having difficulties in safely hiding the weapons until 28 June, the day of Archduke’s visit to Sarajevo.

Cubrilovic asked Kranjcevic whether he would store the weapons. Kranjcevic agreed but only on the condition that the weapons were not used.

In the end Kranjcevic hid some of the guns.

Involvement of Kranjcevic in what was mostly a Slav plot against the Empire was a matter of great embarrassment to the largely Catholic Croat community which was loyal to the Empire. The shame was all the greater because Kranjcevic’s father was a retired sergeant in the Austrian-Bosnian police force.

Kranjcevic was repeatedly asked in the trial why he did not denounce the conspirators to the authorities. Poor Kranjcevic, who knew he was on the hook of a lengthy jail sentence, tied himself in knots. Initially he answered that if he had denounced the conspirators no one would have spoken to him. He said he disagreed with the assassination, but believed that a form of protest was necessary, a warning against the German [Austrian] influence that was destroying the Bosnian people. He also declared, oblivious of the inherent contradiction, that His Highness (Franz Joseph) was not ‘our enemy’, but the Slavs were persecuted anyway! He claimed on more than one occasion during the trial that His Highness was a friend of 'all Croats' and 'all Slavs'! Finally, he said that he approved of the assassination of a minister but not of the Archduke himself. This was not a convincing performance, to say the least, and it was no surprise that the vengeful mood in which the trial was carried out, Kranjcevic was punished severely.