Primary Documents - Archduke Franz Ferdinand's Assassination, 28 June 1914

Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car leaves the town hall at Sarajevo, with Count Franz von Harrach standing on the sideboard The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914, set in train a series of diplomatic events that led inexorably to the outbreak of war in Europe at the end of July 1914.

Ferdinand - and his wife Sophie - were killed by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip while on a formal visit to Sarajevo.  Princip shot Ferdinand at point blank range while the latter was travelling in his car from a town hall reception, having earlier that day already survived one assassination attempt.

Standing on the car's sideboard was Count Franz von Harrach.  A witness to Ferdinand's assassination he subsequently recounted the events of the day.  A portion of his translated memoir is reproduced below.

Click here to view film footage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand arriving at Sarajevo's Town Hall on 28 June 1914

Memoir of Count Franz von Harrach

As the car quickly reversed, a thin stream of blood spurted from His Highness's mouth onto my right check.  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, with her face between his knees.

I had no idea that she too was hit and thought she had simply fainted with fright.  Then I heard His Imperial Highness say, "Sophie, Sophie, don't die.  Stay alive for the children!"

At that, I seized the Archduke by the collar of his uniform, to stop his head dropping forward and asked him if he was in great pain.  He answered me quite distinctly, "It is nothing!"

His face began to twist somewhat but he went on repeating, six or seven times, ever more faintly as he gradually lost consciousness, "It's nothing!"

Then came a brief pause followed by a convulsive rattle in his throat, caused by a loss of blood.  This ceased on arrival at the governor's residence.

The two unconscious bodies were carried into the building where their death was soon established.

A "Communication Trench" was a narrow trench constructed at an angle to a defensive trench to permit concealed access to the defensive trench.

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