Assassin. Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austrian-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, an act that may have hastened the start of World War I. Born in the small village of Oblija, Bosnia-Herzegovina, his father was a mechanic. The family were poor Christian serfs with a Muslim landlord. The second of nine children, six of his siblings died before the age of two. He began a formal education at age nine. At thirteen he left his native village to enrolled in the Merchants School in Sarajevo. He found lodging with a widow and her son, who was an ardent activist, proving to be a key influence in his life. Becoming politically active, Princip became a member of "Mlada Bosna" or Young Bosnians, a group who dreamed of a greater Serbia free of Austrian rule. He was expelled from school for his political beliefs. Learning of the pending visit to Sarajevo by the Archduke, a plan with training was formulated to strike a blow for Serbian freedom. The blundering entourage of the Archduke was soon compromised by bombs and bullets resulting in the death of the royal couple. He fired the gun that killed the royal couple. His name was at the top of a list of twenty-five defendants arrested and brought to trial. Because of his age of 19, instead of death, he received a twenty-year sentence to be served at Theresienstadt Prison outside Vienna. After being chained to a wall, mistreated by the guards and inmates, attempting suicide twice, and having his right arm amputated from tuberculosis of the bone, Princip died in his cell after serving three years and ten months. His remains were secretly disposed. In 1914, a cenotaph was added to the side of the Serbian Orthodox Chapel by the Serbian community located in St Mark Cemetery in Sarajevo to honor Princip and his fellow conspirators as heroes. His fellow assassins were executed in 1914 and their remains were buried in unmarked graves. Supposedly, followers were able to locate and identify the scattered unmarked graves in Austria, disinter and gather some bones including his returning them to Sarajevo. They were re-buried in St. Mark Cemetery in 1920 under a large gray granite marker as "Heroes of Vidovdan." He is viewed by some as a national hero while seen by others as a terrorist. A hundred years later in 2014, to mark the day of the assassination, a bust of Princip was unveiled in a ceremony, and a year later, a statue of him was unveiled in Belgrade. Ironically, Theresienstadt Prison where Princip was incarcerated became a Nazi Concentration Camp during World War II.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield