Nedeljko Čabrinović

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Nedeljko Cabrinovic.jpg

Nedeljko Čabrinović was a Bosnian Serb member of the nationalist Young Bosnia movement and one of seven young men in the secret society known as The Black Hand, who intended to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria during his visit to Sarajevo in June 1914.

All seven men were arrested and implicated a number of members of the Serbian military, leading Austria-Hungary to issue a démarche to Serbia known as the July Ultimatum. The assassination led directly to World War I, and changed the course of history.


On Sunday, 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his pregnant wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip during a visit that had been announced two months prior. General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina had invited Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie to the opening of a hospital. The Archduke knew that the visit would be dangerous, knowing his uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, had been the subject of an assassination attempt by the Black Hand in 1911.

Just before 10 a.m. on Sunday, the royal couple arrived in Sarajevo by train. In the front car was Fehim Čurčić, the Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Gerde, the city's Commissioner of Police. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were in the second car with Oskar Potiorek and Lieutenant Colonel Count Franz von Harrach. The car's top was rolled back in order to allow the crowds a good view of its occupants.

Čabrinović, Grabež and Gavrilo Princip, were all suffering from tuberculosis and knew they would not live long and the other four men hated Franz Ferdinand. They were therefore willing to give their life for what they believed was a great cause: Bosnia and Herzegovina achieving independence from Austro-Hungary.

The six conspirators lined the route. They were spaced out along the Appel Quay, each one with instructions to try to kill Franz Ferdinand when the royal car reached his position. The first conspirator on the route to see the royal car was Muhamed Mehmedbašić. Standing by the Austro-Hungarian Bank, Mehmedbašić lost his nerve and allowed the car to pass without taking action. Mehmedbašić later said that a policeman was standing behind him and feared he would be arrested before he had a chance to throw his bomb.

At 10:15, when the six-car procession passed the central police station, nineteen-year-old student Nedeljko Čabrinović hurled a hand grenade at the Archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards him, but the bomb had a 10 second delay and exploded under the wheel of the fourth car. Two of the occupants, Eric von Merizzi and Count Alexander von Boos-Waldeck were seriously wounded. About a dozen spectators were also hit by bomb shrapnel.

After Čabrinović's bomb missed the Archduke's car, four other conspirators, lost an opportunity to attack because of the heavy crowds and the high speed of the Archduke's car. To avoid capture, Čabrinović swallowed a cyanide capsule and jumped into the River Miljacka to make sure he died. The cyanide pill was expired and made him sick, but failed to kill him and the River Miljacka was only 10 centimetres (4 in) deep. A few seconds later he was hauled out and detained by police. As he was taken away, he supposedly was heard saying "I am a Serb hero."

Franz Ferdinand later decided to go to the hospital and visit the victims of Čabrinović's failed bombing attempt. In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to inform the driver, Leopold Loyka, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Loyka took a right turn into Franz Josef Street.

Gavrilo Princip was standing near Moritz Schiller's cafe, when he spotted Franz Ferdinand's car as it drove past, having taken the wrong turn. After realizing the mistake, the driver put his foot on the brake, and began to reverse the car. In doing so the engine of the car stalled and the gears locked, giving Princip his opportunity. Princip stepped forward, drew his pistol (a .380 caliber FN Model 1910), pistol-whipped a nearby pedestrian, and at a distance of about 1.5 m (five feet), fired twice into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie (who instinctively covered Franz's body with her own after the first shot) in the abdomen. They both died before 11:00.


Čabrinović confessed to his crimes, but believed himself a Serb hero and true anarchist. As he was still a minor, he was not executed, but was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He died on 20 January 1916 of tuberculosis in a Terezín prison.

He was secretly buried by Austro-Hungarian officials in Sarajevo in a cemented grave right after his death. Two years later, when Gavrilo Princip died, also of tuberculosis, they were buried in the same grave. Both assassins died before the "Great War" ended and without seeing the defeat and collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

After Nedeljko's arrest, his mother also ended up in prison in Sarajevo, where she died. His father was interned in the Bosanska Krajina. Soon after, he married a widow, and from this marriage were born a daughter Dušanka and a son, who died young. Nedeljko's father died in 1930, the result of torture in Sarajevo prison. Later that same year, his widow moved herself and their children to Belgrade