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Assassin Gavrillo Princip. Photo: Wikipedia
Assassin Gavrillo Princip. Photo: Wikipedia
April 27, 2014

Assassin who sparked World War I gets requiem mass

Serb anarchist Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and later died in Terezín

Terezin, North Bohemia, April 26 (ČTK) — An Eastern Orthodox requiem mass for Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip, a young political activist who assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in 1914, was today celebrated in the Terezín Small Fortress where Princip died on April 28, 1918.

The assassination provoked Austro-Hungary’s invasion of Serbia, which led to World War I.

“However, it was also one of the first steps that led to the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia. The activists from southeast Balkans were later defended by the first (Czechoslovak) president T. G. Masaryk,” said one of the initiators of the requiem, Social Democrat (ČSSD) MP Jaroslav Foldyna, whose mother is Serb.

Princip is a controversial figure, even for Serbs.

“Some consider him a hero of the national resistance movement. On the other hand, his deed brought enormous suffering on the Serbs. More than two million of them were killed in World War I,” said Václav Dvořák from the Friends of Serbs in Kosovo group.

He said Serbs living in the Czech Republic see Princip as a hero. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Princip’s Slavic origin is challenged, however, he added.

Franz Ferdinand’s wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, was a Czech aristocrat, born as countess Zofie Chotkova.

Princip was not sentenced to death for the assassination because the death penalty could not be applied to people who were younger than 20 years under Habsburg law. He killed Franz Ferdinand seven days before his 20th birthday.

As a result, Princip was sent to prison for 20 years. He and two of his accomplices were transported to the prison in the Terezín Small Fortress where all three later died of tuberculosis. Princip was buried at the Terezín municipal cemetery and his remains were moved to Sarajevo in 1920.

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