Archduke Ferdinand lying in state

The mortal remains of Sophie and Ferdinand were interred at Artstetten castle on 4 July. Nine days later Dr Friedrich von Wiesner, the Chief Austrian investigator, forwarded an interim report to Vienna containing three major points. Firstly, the Greater Serbia movement aimed to sever the Southern Slav region from Austria by revolutionary violence. He pointed an accusatory finger at the Serbian nationalist group Narodna Odbrana, stating that the Belgrade government had made no attempt to curb its activities. Secondly, von Wiesner unmasked Major Tankosić and ‘the Serbian official Ciganovic’ as the men responsible for training and supplying the assassins with weapons, and both the frontier authorities and the customs officers for smuggling them into Bosnia. These facts he deemed ‘demonstrable and virtually unassailable’. [1] He concluded by stating cautiously, that there was no conclusive proof at that time, that the Serbian Government had any knowledge of the assassination or had co-operated in preparing it. [2]

Friedrich von WiesnerDr von Wiesner’s oral report, delivered some two days later, was more comprehensive and came to a momentous conclusion. The Serbian government had known everything about the assassination. He had unearthed more evidence of Serbian complicity, but his telegrammed report of 13 July was destined to be hijacked and later grossly misrepresented by the American delegation at the War Guilt Commission in 1919. Their two most senior delegates, Secretary of State Robert Lansing and Counsellor James Scott Brown, deliberately chose a 31-word extract from Von Wiesner’s brief report which they claimed ‘proved’ that Austria had no evidence of Serbian involvement [3] Such deliberate falsification suited their cause. It was used as part of the post-war onslaught against Germany and Austria to lay the blame for the world war entirely on their shoulders. Lansing and Brown stand accused of deliberately falsifying history in order to malign the Austrian and German governments.

By October, when the Young Bosnians were brought to trial the Austrian authorities had overwhelming evidence of Serbian complicity. Despite this, the conspirators insisted in deflecting blame from Serbia. Under cross-examination, Princip was defiant: ‘I believe in unification of all South Slavs in whatever form of state and that it be free of Austria.’ Asked how he intended to realize his goal he responded: ‘By means of terror.’ [4] Although they had been trained in Serbia, the Young Bosnians had no knowledge of the influences that dictated policy further up the chain of command. Indeed, few if any within that chain knew who was empowering the next link. Princip and his group genuinely believed that they were striking a blow for freedom and emancipation Trial of conspiratorsand could not bring themselves to accept that they had been duped into literally firing someone else’s bullets.

The Austrian court did not accept their attempts to hold Serbia blameless. [5] The verdict was decisive, with the court correctly finding that the military commanders in charge of the Serbian espionage service collaborated in the outrage. Four of the assassination team were executed by hanging in February 1915, but the younger members, like Princip, were given prison sentences. He died in prison in 1918 from tuberculosis exacerbated by a botched amputation. Crucially, the trail of culpability had not been covered over.

Above all else, the Secret Elites had to ensure that no links could be traced from Serbia to Russia. Russian complicity in the Archduke’s death would have altered the balance of credibility for the Entente cause. All links to Sazonov in particular had to be airbrushed. That in turn meant that the web of intrigue between Serbia and Russia be cleansed. The outbreak of war in August slowed down this process, but only delayed the outcome.

Nicholai Hartwig, Russian ambassador to Serbia, died in Belgrade in very strange circumstances. On a visit to the Austrian ambassador, Baron von Giesel, on 10 July1914, Hartwig collapsed, allegedly from a massive ‘heart attack’. The Serbian press immediately published inflammatory articles accusing the Austrians of poisoning Hartwig while he was a guest at their legation. The Austrians, of course, knew from decoded diplomatic telegrams, that Hartwig was at the centre of intrigues against Austria-Hungary. [6] Was this an old-fashioned Roman-style act of retribution or, were the Secret Elite simply very fortunate that a fifty-seven year old diplomat dropped dead in the Austrian legation barely two weeks after the assassination in which he was complicit?

Denials echoed around Europe, no-where more vehemently than in Britain, where the Secret Elite had to vilify any suggestion that Russia was involved with internal Bosnian or Austro-Hungarian politics. The Times led the outcry;

‘The latest suggestion made in one of the Serbian newspapers is that M de Hartwig’s sudden death in the Austro-Hungarian Legation at Belgrade the other day was due to poison. Ravings of that kind move the contempt as well as the disgust of cultivated people, whatever their political sympathies may be.’ [7]

Ravings indeed. The Times, and those it represented, clearly wanted to squash such speculation. It was far too close to the truth. If the idea that Hartwig had been murdered because he was involved in the Archduke’s assassination gained credence, British public opinion would turn even sourer against Russia. At the request of the Serbian Government, Hartwig was buried in Belgrade in what was virtually a State funeral. Every notable Serbian, including the Prime Minister, attended. Officially Hartwig suffered death by natural causes. Unofficially, a very important link in the chain of culpability was buried along with his corpse.

Some three years later, with the tide of war turned violently against Serbia, Colonel Apis and the officers loyal to him were arrested. At a Serbian Court Martial Colonel Apisheld on the frontier at Salonika on 23 May 1917, Apis and eight of his associates were indicted on various trumped up charges, unrelated to Sarajevo, and sentenced to death, Two others were sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Serbian High Court reduced the number of death sentences to seven and King Alexander commuted another four, leaving Apis and two others to face the firing squad. [8]

Colonel Apis effectively signed his own death warrant when he confessed to the Salonika court that he had enlisted men to carry out the assassination. ‘In agreement with Artamanov, the Russian military attaché, I hired Malobabic to organise Ferdinand’s murder upon his arrival in Sarajevo.’ [9] The explosive part of that statement was the opening phrase ‘in agreement with Artamanov’. His revelation of Russian involvement had to be silenced. Much to his own surprise, for Colonel Apis truly believed, right up to the moment of death that his contacts in England, France and Russia would intervene on his behalf, he was executed on 26 June 1917 by firing squad. [10] In reality, Apis was silenced; put to death by order of those who desperately needed to permanently bury the complicity of Russia in the Sarajevo assassination. [11] It was judicial murder.

By one means or another, the lower levels of the web of culpability were blown away. The Young Bosnians had in their naivety been willing sacrifices to a cause they never knew existed. Hartwig was dead. Murdered? Probably, but all that really mattered was that his voice would never be heard again. Our understanding of his role in managing the Russian intrigues has to remain, at best, incomplete. There was plenty to hide, and no doubt at all about Russian complicity. [12] The Soviet collection of diplomatic papers from the year 1914 revealed an astonishing gap.During the first days of the October Revolution in 1917, Hartwig’s dispatches from Belgrade for the crucial period between May and July, 1914 were removed by an unknown person from the archives of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Three years dead and his was a voice they still had to gag. [13] Finally, Apis and his Black Hand associates were removed from any future enquiry or the temptation of a lucrative memoir. Blown away; all of them, in the expectation that the truth about their direct involvement would disappear in the confusion of war.

And yet the world has been asked to believe that the murder of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was carried out by a bunch of lucky amateurs who inadvertently set the world ablaze. What nonsense. Having failed to entice the Austrians and their German allies into an angry indiscretion over the Balkan wars, the Secret Elite laid a most devious trap, which also might well have come to nothing unless deceit had not been taken to an unprecedented level. Court historians have deliberately misrepresented the complex events of July 1914 and perpetuated the myth that after Sarajevo, world war was inevitable. Their stance is based on claims that the opposing Alliance systems, Kaiser Wilhelm IIsecret treaties and acceleration of armaments production in Europe were destined to end in war. The Kaiser, in their view, lusted for world domination, misled his people and deliberately used the Archduke’s assassination as an excuse to drag Europe into ‘Armageddon’.

These incredible concoctions gained credence over the twentieth century through deliberately falsified histories and received learning. Whoever challenged them was deemed to be a ‘revisionist’ or a ‘conspiracy-theorist’ and sometimes even a traitor. An official cloak of confusion was woven through the manipulations and misrepresentations presented as ‘evidence’ at Versailles in 1919, to deliberately and unfairly lay blame on the Kaiser and Germany. When that cloak is stripped away it is patently clear that it was not Germany that wanted war, or forced war on Europe in 1914. That particular infamy belongs to the Secret Elite in London.

[1] Friedrich von Wiesner, ‘Austria’s Life and Death Struggle Against Irredentism’, New York Times Current History of the European War, vol. 28 (1928), issue 4, p.632.
[2] Austrian Red Book No 17 quoted in Sidney B Fay, The Origins of the World War, vol.1., pp.6-7.
[3] von Wiesner, ‘Austria’s Life and Death Struggle Against Irredentism’, p.632.
[4] Harry Elmer Barnes, ‘Germany Not Responsible for Austria’s Actions’, New York Times Current History of the European War, vol. 28 (1928), issue 4, p.622.
[5] W.A. Dolph Owings, The Sarajevo Trial, Part 1, pp.527–30.
[6] Barnes, ‘Germany Not Responsible for Austria’s Actions’, p.620.
[7] The Times, 16 July 1914.
[8] David MacKenzie, Apis, The Congenial Conspirator, pp.329 and 344–7.
[9] Ibid., pp.129-130.
[10] Vladimir Dedijer, Road to Sarajevo, pp.398–400.
[11] Harry Elmer Barnes, Genesis of the World War, p.731.
[12] Victor Serge, ‘La Verité sur l’Attentat de Sarajevo’, in Clarte, no. 74, 1 May 1924.
[13] Dedijer, Road to Sarajevo, p.513.