History Podcasts

City Hall to Sarajevo Hospital

City Hall to Sarajevo Hospital

After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand asked about the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. When the archduke was told they were badly injured in hospital, he insisted on being taken to see them. A member of the archduke's staff, Baron Morsey, suggested this might be dangerous, but Oskar Potiorek, who was responsible for the safety of the royal party, replied, "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?" However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if Duchess Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When Baron Morsey told Sophie about the revised plans, she refused to stay arguing: "As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today I will not leave him."

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 tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street. One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, happened to be was standing on the corner at the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the driver had taken the wrong route and shouted "What is this? This is the wrong way! We're supposed to take the Appel Quay!".

The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Gavrilo Princip. The assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie von Chotkovato in the abdomen. Princip's bullet had pierced the archduke's jugular vein but before losing consciousness, he pleaded "Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!" Franz Urban drove the royal couple to Konak, the governor's residence, but although both were still alive when they arrived, they died from their wounds soon afterwards.

As instructed, after shooting Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato, Gavrilo Princip turned his gun on himself. Ante Velic, who was standing behind him, saw what he was doing and seized Princip's right arm. Another man, Danilo Pusic, also grabbed Princip and within seconds the police arrived and he was arrested.

To make his death certain twenty-two members of the organization were selected to carry out the sentence. Two hours before Franz Ferdinand arrived in Sarajevo all the twenty-two conspirators were distributed 500 yards apart over the whole route along which the Archduke must travel from the railroad station to the town hall. When the car passed Cabrinovic he threw his grenade. It hit the side of the car, but Franz Ferdinand with presence of mind threw himself back and was uninjured.

The cars sped to the Town Hall and the rest of the conspirators did not interfere with them. After the reception in the Town Hall General Potiorek, the Austrian Commander, pleaded with Franz Ferdinand to leave the city, as it was seething with rebellion. The Archduke was persuaded to drive the shortest way out of the city and go quickly.

The road to the maneuvers was shaped like the letter V, making a sharp turn at the bridge over the River Nilgacka. Franz Ferdinand's car could go fast enough until it reached this spot but here it was forced to slow down for the turn. Here Princip had taken his stand. As the car came abreast he stepped forward from the curb, drew his automatic pistol from his coat and fired two shots. The first struck the wife of the Archduke, the Archduchess Sophie, in the abdomen. She was an expectant mother. She died instantly. The second bullet struck the Archduke close to the heart.

I aimed at the Archduke. I do not remember what I thought at that moment. I only know that I fired twice, or perhaps several times, without knowing whether I had hit or missed.

As I was drawing out my handkerchief to wipe away the blood from the Archduke's lips, her Highness cried out: "For God's sake! What happened to you?" Then she sank down from her seat with her face between the Archduke's knees. I had no idea that she had been hit and thought that she had fainted from shock. His Royal Highness said "Sophie, Sophie, don't die. Live for my children." I seized the Archduke by the coat collar to prevent his head from sinking forward and asking him: "Is your highness in great pain?" To which he clearly answered: "It is nothing." His face was slightly distorted, and he repeated six or seven times, every time losing more consciousness and with a fading voice: "It is 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.


Who's Who - Oskar Potiorek

Although Oskar Potiorek (1853-1933) served as a military commander in the Austro-Hungarian army, and was responsible for the first (unsuccessful) invasion of Serbia in 1914, he is chiefly remembered today as the man responsible for the safety of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the day the latter was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

Serving as inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian army from 1911, Potiorek was also the military governor of Bosnia from 1912 onwards. He was made directly responsible for security arrangements for the forthcoming visit of Ferdinand to Sarajevo in late June 1914.

Franz Ferdinand arrived in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, a Sunday, and was met at the railway station by Potiorek, to be taken on to the city hall for the reception and speeches.

Seven members of the Black Hand Serbian nationalist secret society lined the route due to be taken by the Archduke's cavalcade along Appel Quay, planning to assassinate Ferdinand (and who had planned to kill Potiorek himself earlier in the year).

One of the men, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, threw a grenade at the Archduke's car. The driver took evasive action and quickly sped from the scene. The grenade bounced off the back of the Archduke's car and rolled underneath the next car, exploding seconds later two of its occupants were severely wounded.

Ferdinand attended the reception at the city hall and complained vociferously about his reception at the city.

"What is the good of your speeches? I come to Sarajevo on a visit, and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous!"

Archduke Franz Ferdinand interrupting the Mayor's welcome speech at Sarajevo's city hall, 28 June 1914.

Following the reception the Archduke determined to visit those injured in the grenade explosion at the city hospital. Potiorek decided that the motorcade should take an alternate route to the hospital, avoiding the city centre altogether. However the driver of Ferdinand's car, Franz Urban, was not informed of the change of plan and so took the original route.

Turning into Franz Joseph Street, Potiorek, who was a passenger in Ferdinand's car, noticed that the altered route had not been taken. He remonstrated with the driver who in turn slowed the car and then began to reverse out of the street.

Gavrilo Princip - another of the Black Hand members - who happened to be in Franz Joseph Street at a cafe, seized his opportunity, and took aim at Ferdinand from a distance of five feet. His bullets struck the Archduke in the neck and his wife, Sophie, who was travelling with him, in the abdomen.

Urban drove the car to the governor's residence at Konak the couple died soon afterwards.

Following the presentation of an ultimatum to Serbia three weeks following the assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war with Serbia.

Once war had been inevitably declared Potiorek was tasked with spearheading the invasion of Serbia, to which end he was given command of Fifth and Sixth Armies. An opportunity perhaps to retrieve something of his battered reputation, the invasion was poorly led with the Serbs not only successful in the defence of their country, but managing also to expel the Austro-Hungarian army itself from Serbian territory.

Following a series of such defeats, at Jadar, Drina and Kolubara, Potiorek was forced into retirement with his replacement as commander by Archduke Eugen on 22 December 1914.

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

A 'Toasting Fork' was a bayonet, often used for the named purpose.

- Did you know?


1914: Bloodshed in Sarajevo Triggers World War I

Specifically, the Sarajevo assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand provided the pretext for World War I.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph and bore the title “Thronfolger” (heir-presumptive), because the old emperor had no male heirs after the suicide of his son Rudolph.

On this day Franz Ferdinand and his wife came to visit Sarajevo. The assassins had a broad-based plan with as many as six killers armed and deployed along the route that Archduke’s vehicle was supposed to take.

Despite such organization, the assassination occurred almost by accident, when it already seemed that all attempts had failed.

Namely, the whole thing happened like this: Franz Ferdinand and his wife were greeted at the Sarajevo railway station. Six automobiles were waiting and the Archduke entered the third, a large open limousine of Austrian brand Graf & Stift with 32 hp.

During the ride to the town hall, one of the six assassins, Nedeljko Čabrinović, threw a bomb on that car, but it bounced off the folded roof and fell back onto the street. It exploded under the following car, so the Archduke sustained no injury, but 20 other people were wounded.

The procession of cars sped away and continued towards the City Hall. Despite the fact that the Archduke was shaken by the assassination attempt, protocol was continued and solemn speeches were held.

After the ceremony, the Archduke and his wife decided to visit the hospital where the wounded from the assassination had been placed.

They sat in the same open car again. However, the driver of the car was not informed about the change of route, so while driving through Sarajevo he made ​​a wrong turn. He put the car in reverse to back up.

At that moment, they were spotted by one of the six assassins, Gavrilo Princip, who had already given up on the assassination and was in a nearby store. While the car was trying to reverse, Gavrilo Princip fired his pistol, a Belgian FN (Fabrique Nationale) model 1910 .32 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol).

He fired two shots, the first of which hit the Archduke and the second his wife. The Archduke’s last words were addressed to his wife: “Sophie, Sophie! Do not die! Stay alive for our children!” and when asked how he felt, he replied: “It’s nothing!”

But Sophie died before they were brought to the governor’s residence, as did the Archduke ten minutes later.


History class: Young people studied and fell in love in the City Hall (gallery)

[wzslider autoplay=”true”]Only old photos and memories of employees and visitors witnessed that the beauty of Sarajevo, the City Hall, used to be a library.

“Users were coming before the opening of the library in order to get into the line,” said Bedita Islamovic, an employee of the National and University Library, which operated in the City Hall.

“The daily fluctuation was about 2,000 people. The large reading room alone had 400 places of reading. I remember, working hours were from 7:00 am, and people were waiting in line to get a number already in 6:30 am.”

Bedita stated at the time the City Hall was not just a library, but also a place to socialize, and fall in love.

Everyone passed their exams, she said, because the working atmosphere in the City Hall was good.

The National and University Library, which was located in the City Hall back then, had about 20,000 users on an annual basis. Today this library, which is in a very bad financial situation, has about 4,000 users.

About the work of the Library during the war, Bedita said:

“Since the May of 1992, the number of employees was reduced. Several colleagues stopped coming to work, no one knew where they were or what they were doing. However, later it was obvious that they joined the barricades, they were seen there. I accepted that information with the disbelief, because when someone that you work, drink coffee every morning, share a snack with, you cannot imagine this person as your enemy, someone who is ready to raise his hand on you and endanger your life and the lives of your family”.

The City Hall had about 3 million library items. UNESCO stated that about 10 % to 20 % of the fund was saved, and Bedita stated that a certain number of periodic units had already been relocated because of accommodation in hangars in Nahorevo, as well as the students dorms in Vrace, but that everything was destroyed.

“First we were saving the old and rare collections, manuscripts – an embryo that was actually making the National and University Library,” said Bedita.

After the shelling and burning, the library continued to work in the premises of Odjek at BCC and Bedita said that even then the people were coming to the reading room (which was improvised in the hallway), to read and borrow books.

The City Hall has great tourist importance today, but since it is not used as a library, it is almost forgotten what it used to be.


The Street Corner That Changed The World

In the capital city of Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, on a street corner just across Latin Bridge, hangs a big purple banner that proclaims in white capital letters: "The street corner that started the 20th century". It was on this very place, on June 28, 1914, a 19-year-old Bosnian named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sofia, setting in motion a chain of events that led to the First World War and changed the course of the 20th century. But the assassination itself was a farce and an almost failed attempt, until a tragic comedy of errors delivered the Archduke right in front of the assassin.

Franz Ferdinand's unpopularity that ultimately led to his death stems from his policies that he intended to apply once he assumed the throne. Ferdinand proposed to replace Austro-Hungarian dualism with 'Trialism,' a triple monarchy in which the Slavic lands within the Austro-Hungarian empire would be reorganized and combined into a third crown. Ferdinand also advocated the idea of a federalism. These ideas were not popular among the ruling elite. A Serbian terrorist group, the Black Hand, resolved to assassinate Franz Ferdinand during his visit to Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, thereby stalling his proposed reforms.

On that fateful day, no less than seven conspirators were positioned along the route the Archduke was to take to the City Hall. Most of them failed to act until the car approached one conspirator Nedeljko Cabrinovic. Cabrinovic threw a bomb, but the bomb bounced off the folded back convertible cover into the street and rolled under the car following it. Its explosion left a 1-foot-diameter crater on the street and wounded several people. Meanwhile, Cabrinovic had swallowed a cyanide pill and jumped into the Miljacka river. At that time the river was only 6 inches deep, and 15 feet below the level of the road. Cabrinovic sprained his ankles and was unable to move. His cyanide pill didn’t work either and only induced vomiting. He was later dragged out of the river and severely beaten by the crowd.

Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie leave the Sarajevo Guildhall after reading a speech on June 28 1914. They were assassinated five minutes later. Photo credit

Having escaped the first attempt, Ferdinand arrived at the City Hall and angrily shouted at the Governot, “I come to Sarajevo on a visit, and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous!”. Afterward, the Archduke decided to visit the hospital to see the people who were wounded in the bomb attack. However, no one told the drivers that the itinerary had been changed. The car was supposed to go straight but it turned right at the corner. When the error was discovered, the driver applied the brakes and the car came to a halt. Princip, who had missed his chance the first time, was sitting at a cafe across the street, perhaps having a coffee and thinking about his next move. Upon seeing the car, he raced across the street and pumped two bullets into the couple. The first one hit Sophie and the second hit Franz Ferdinand. As they lay dying in the car, Franz Ferdinand pleaded with his wife crying, "Stay alive, Sophie, for the sake of the children."

Gavrilo Princip, the man who started the First World War. Photo credit

All of the assassins were eventually caught and sentenced to either death or long terms in prison. Gavrilo Princip received twenty years in prison but he died 3 years later of tuberculosis. World War I was already underway.

A year later, the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed and Yugoslavia was born, and Princip became a national hero. The ancient Latin Bridge facing the assassination spot was renamed after him and a concrete cast of Princip’s footprints was embedded in the sidewalk. A small black tablet feting him as “the initiator of liberty” also went up, and so did a memorial plaque which was put up at the spot where Gavrilo Princip stood when he fired the shots.

When the Nazis entered Sarajevo in the spring of 1941, they removed the tablet and presented it to Adolf Hitler as a symbolic tribute from a conquered city. The concrete footprints were destroyed during the 1992󈟋 war in Bosnia. The building at the corner next to which Princip was standing, and over which the proud purple banner proclaims the importance of the street, was turned into a museum. The memorial plaque can still be seen today.

This picture is often said to depict the arrest of Gavrilo Princip, although several scholars say that it depicts the arrest of Ferdinand Behr, a bystander who was initially suspected of involvement in the assassination. Photo credit

This billboard was put up only recently in 2014. Photo credit

The Latin Bridge over the Miljacka river, into the shallow waters of which one of the conspirators jumped. Photo credit

Another view of the Latin Bridge. Photo credit

The memorial plaque at the corner. Photo credit

The car upon which Franz Ferdinand and his wife were riding when they were assassinated, now in a museum. Photo credit


The Sarajevo Assassination

Although the vast majority of historians will agree that the shot which Gavrilo Princip fired at Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 was not the cause of the Great War, but rather a spark that set a series of events into motion which then led to its outbreak, the final outcome of the events that took place in Sarajevo 100 years ago was certainly devastating.

Official visit

A full day of activities had been planned for the official visit made by Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, who arrived in Sarajevo on June 27th to observe military exercises.

They were staying at Hotel Bosna (the present-day Hoteli Ilidža complex), in Ilidža, and on the evening before the fateful day, the royal pair hosted a dinner for Austro-Hungarian dignitaries. Dining on fine cuisine, which included fresh trout from the Bosna River and drinking fine wines, such as Žilavka from Herzegovina, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, could never have imagined the dark clouds that were forming to cast a fateful shadow over their lives.

Meeting with a seemingly warm welcome on June 28th, the Archduke asked his driver to proceed slowly so that he could have a good look at the city. The royal party traveled via Appel Quay (the present-day Obala Kulina Bana St.) en route to Vijećnica (City Hall), where a civilian reception was to take place.

The first attack made on the Archduke&rsquos life happened near what is now the Safvet Bey Ba&scaronagić Primary School. One of the conspirators saw the car approaching at a reduced speed so he threw a bomb. The driver, seeing an object coming toward him, sped up and the bomb landed on the retracted portion of the roof of the Archduke&rsquos vehicle. Ferdinand shielded his wife with his hand and the bomb rolled off his car and landed beneath one of the other cars in his procession, where it exploded.

Tragic moment

The Archduke&rsquos car hurried on toward Vijećnica in an attempt to avoid any further danger. After cutting their stay short, the royal pair then proceeded to the hospital to visit those who had been wounded during the earlier attack. As they were driving down Appel Quay, the driver made a fatal error when he turned sharply onto Franz Joseph Street (now Zelenih Beretki Street). He attempted to reverse the car back onto Appel Quay, but the assassin was waiting on the corner.

The young Gavrilo Princip saw his chance and fired two shots at close range, killing both the Archduke and his wife. This event resulted in the outbreak of World War I, which would completely change the face of the world at that time.

The conspirators, all of whom were arrested and tried, and most of them died in dungeons throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the Great War their remains were exhumed and buried at St. Mark&rsquos cemetery in Ko&scaronevo, a Sarajevo neighborhood, where a chapel dedicated to St. Vitus was erected in their honor.

The Archduke was killed in front of the building which now houses a museum covering Sarajevo history during the period of Austro-Hungarian rule.


Touring the Republika Srpska’s capital city

Bosnia’s largest city after Sarajevo, and the de facto capital of its Serb-major entity, Banja Luka saw many of its historic structures destroyed during the war, though both its 16th century Ferhat Pasha Mosque and Christ the Savior Orthodox Cathedral have been reconstructed. The city’s oldest monument, the medieval Kastel Fortress, still stands along the Vrbas River. Check out the Museum of the Republika Srpska, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Ljubačke Doline ethnographic museum while in town for a quick introduction to Banja Luka.


A Century Ago In Sarajevo: A Plot, A Farce And A Fateful Shot

The shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was fired a hundred years ago this weekend.

The assassination in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, triggered World War I and changed the course of the 20th century. The consequences of that act were devastating. But the beginning of the story sounds almost like a farce — complete with bad aim, botched poisoning and a wrong turn on the road.

Today, in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, you don't have to hunt around for the spot where it all took place. A big purple banner announces it in white capital letters: "The street corner that started the 20th century."

People take photos as streetcars rumble by. And according to Dr. James Lyon, an expert in Balkan history, the street would have looked almost identical a hundred years ago — it just would have had a few more trees.

A Route Lined With Flags, Fans . And Assassins

The events of the archduke's assassination make for an unlikely story at every turn. It starts with the almost total lack of security — at the time, Sarajevo had a police force of 200.

"Approximately half or slightly less than half of the police force had turned out that day to provide security for the visit of the crown prince of the entire empire," Lyon says. "And the army was not turned out at all."

"The official reason was that the army had been out on maneuvers for the previous two days," he explains. "Their uniforms were muddy and dirty, and they were not presentable."

Also, the people in charge of the archduke's visit decided that it was a good idea to publish the motorcade route in advance. So the path was crowded with people. Bunting, flags and brightly colored carpets hung out the windows — and the would-be assassins knew exactly where to stand.

There were seven of them along the parade route, carrying bombs and guns. Most chickened out altogether.

Nedeljko Cabrinovic was one exception. He threw a bomb and missed, wounding an official in the motorcade behind the archduke.

Franz Ferdinand ordered the driver to stop. He got out and walked back to inspect the damage and the wounded people.

Today, if something like that happened, the vehicles would race away from the scene as fast as they could, Lyon says. But not in 1914: "This was European nobility at the turn of the century."

Meanwhile Cabrinovic, who threw the bomb, swallowed some poison and jumped into the river below.

At that time the river would have been about 6 inches deep, 15 feet below the level of the road. Cabrinovic sprained his ankles and was unable to move.

The poison didn't work, either — it just made him sick.

The consequences of this day are hard to overstate: The events triggered a global war in which tens of millions of people died. But when you look at the assassination on its own, it seems almost farcical.

"It would be a comic tragedy of errors," Lyon says, "and it would have made for a good Peter Sellers film."

The Shot Heard Round The World

The furious archduke arrived at City Hall, where the mayor of Sarajevo delivered some totally inappropriate remarks that were written before the assassination attempt.

The archduke snapped, "What kind of welcome is this? I'm being met by bombs!" Then he wiped the blood off his prepared speech and addressed the crowd.

Afterward, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne got back into his motorcade with his wife, Sophie. They had decided to visit the hospital to see the people who were wounded in the bomb attack.

But no one told the driver.

At that fateful intersection, the car was supposed to go straight — but it turned right. A general in the motorcade shouted, "You're going the wrong way!"

And the driver stopped the car . right in front of assassin number seven.

Gavrilo Princip, who had missed his chance the first time, was standing on the sidewalk 4 feet away from the car — at the only place on the route where the car stopped.

Princip stepped forward and fired two shots. One of them hit Sophie, and the other hit the archduke. Both shots were fatal.

As they lay dying in the car, Franz Ferdinand pleaded with his wife, "Stay alive, Sophie, for the sake of the children."

Seven Assassins — None A 007

The term "assassins" calls to mind 007 or Mission Impossible — dashing Hollywood archetypes.

But in the photos at the museum on the corner, the would-be killers hardly look dashing. They're dirty, sickly, skinny.

"Two of the seven people lying in wait were students," Lyon says. "The other five were professional revolutionaries, people who were unemployed or people who were agitating for national causes."

They all seem to have had slightly different motivations — Serbian nationalists, anti-monarchists. But Lyon says they never intended to start a global war.

By the time the assassins' trial began, World War I had already broken out.

"Each and every one of them said at the trial, and later said during their imprisonment, that had they known that such a horrendous war would ensue, they would never have taken part in the activities of June 28," Lyon says.

Some of the conspirators were executed. Others died in prison. All but one are now buried just outside Sarajevo's old city, next to a highway overpass.


A New Documentary on Sarajevo´s former Military Hospital – The unsung heroes of the siege of Sarajevo

On February 15th 2013 during the trial of Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, the Trial chamber heard the testimony of one Dr Bakir Nakas a prosecution witness in the case against Mladic. Nakas was manager at the Sarajevo State Hospital, which was a military hospital before the Yugoslav People’s Army, or JNA, withdrew from the city in May 1992. According to Nakas due to the constant shelling of the city and the hospital, most of the hospital´s equipment was moved from the upper floors to the basement. Nakas office however remained on the third floor from there he had access to a terrace from where he could see the Bosnian Serb positions. “I could watch firing from that direction as well as other activities,” Nakas told the court. He said that his secretary was wounded by a bullet “probably from a sniper”, and that “a similar shot” subsequently hit his office.

When asked by the prosecution why he thought that the Bosnian Serbs intended to destroy the hospital, Nakas replied that he had heard about remarks made by Dragan Kalinic, a surgeon and former colleague of Nakas who later became health minister in Republika Srpska. Aside from saying that shelling Sarajevo´s hospitals was good idea ( Remember, Kalinic had taken the Hippocratic Oath ) Kalinic is most famous for being removed from position of chairman of the national assembly of RS and SDS for what the OHR and Paddy Ashdown called “a catalogue of abuse, corruption and tax evasion at all levels of the SDS.” According to Nakas, Kalinic had once stated that “since the former military hospital had been lost, it was “good and necessary” to target it and also another city hospital, in order to “reduce the possibility of providing care to injured citizens of Sarajevo”.

The prosecution then produced a transcript of a Republika Srpska assembly session dated May 12, 1992, where Kalinic is quoted as saying “if the military hospital falls into the hands of the enemy, I am for the destruction of the Kosevo hospital, so that the enemy has nowhere to go for medical help”.

According to Nakas, a professor of architecture surveyed the damage done to the hospital due to it´s exposure to shelling and sniper fire and pointed out that one of the pillars on the eight floor had been damaged. Had the pillar broken off or sustained more damage the hospital would have broken down. “Given that a number of shells hit the eight floor we supposed that it was an attempt to render the hospital unfit for use”

The siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of any major city in modern time, it lasted three time longer then the siege of Stalingrad and a year longer then the siege of Leningrad. Beginning on April 5th 1992 with the murders of Olga Sucic and Suada Dilberovic on Vrbanja bridge and lasting up until February 1996, 11541 people were killed, of those 1601 were children. Approximately 50 000 people were wounded.

A cemetery for those who died in the siege of Sarajevo, built on a football pitch in front of the Zetra Olympic hall in Sarajevo.

In May 1994, two years before the end of the siege, the most comprehensive UN-Report on the siege of Sarajevo was published. According to the report, the structural damage and damage to property in Sarajevo as a result of the siege included hospitals and other medical buildings and ambulances and medical personnel, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers with more. Civilians have also been subjected to attacks, which can in no way be justified by the current state of war.

The siege has not spared any sector of Sarajevo’s population. UNICEF reported that of the estimated 65,000 to 80,000 children in the city: at least 40 per cent had been directly shot at by snipers 51 per cent had seen someone killed 39 per cent had seen one or more family members killed 19 per cent had witnessed a massacre 48 per cent had their home occupied by someone else 73 per cent have had their home attacked or shelled and 89 per cent had lived in underground shelters. It is probable that the psychological trauma suffered during the siege will bear heavily on the lives of these children in the years to come. ( Civilian Casualties )

The chronology confirms that certain areas of the city have been systematically shelled throughout the course of the siege. For example, the city centre has consistently been the most often targeted area, with shelling attacks reported in that particular area of the city on 240 days. Also heavily shelled were the airport area and southwestern suburbs (shelling attacks reported on 158 days) and the Old Town area (shelling attacks reported on 113 days).

Systematic targeting can be inferred from the shelling of hospitals and in particular the Sarajevo University Clinical Centre Kosevo which has constantly been under shell and sniper fire. The Kosevo complex has reportedly been shelled at least 264 times since the siege began, killing staff and patients alike. An examination of the sheer number of shells and the high percentage of direct hits on the complex indicates intent by the besieging forces to hit this civilian target. Moreover, much of the shelling from the surrounding hillsides has taken place at midday, the time when the hospital is busiest with visitors.

It is therefore obvious that the besieging forces have knowledge of the patterns of operation of this facility. Despite extensive damage, a shortage of electricity, water and necessary equipment, the Kosevo Hospital is by necessity still in operation. UNPROFOR and city officials have indicated that shelling of the city ranges from about 200 to 300 impacts on what they refer to as a quiet day to 800 to 1,000 shell impacts on an active day. The chronology confirms that the city has been relentlessly shelled over the course of the siege. On the 196 days in the chronology where a total shelling count was available, Sarajevo was hit by 64,490 shells, totalling an average of approximately 329 shell impacts on the city per day.

The range of shelling activity on these days varied from a low of two shell impacts on 17 and 18 May 1993 and 24 August 1993, to a high of 3,777 shell impacts on 22 July 1993. Observers have noted that UNPROFOR shelling reports in many cases record only a fraction of actual shelling activity. This is due in part to the logistical difficulties encountered by the UNPROFOR contingent during the siege. Therefore, it should be assumed that Sarajevo has been hit by a greater number of shells than that which has been recorded by observers. (Structural and property damage and destruction)

At the trial of Major-General Stanislav Galic, the man that commanded the Sarajevo Romanija Corps of the Bosnian Serb Army or the SRK and was in command of the besieging forces from around 10 September 1992 to 10 August 1994, the prosecution stated the following :

The siege of Sarajevo, as it came to be popularly known, was an episode of such notoriety in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia that one must go back to World War II to find a parallel in European history. Not since then had a professional army conducted a campaign of unrelenting violence against the inhabitants of a European city so as to reduce them to a state of medieval deprivation in which they were in constant fear of death. In the period covered in this Indictment, there was nowhere safe for a Sarajevan, not at home, at school, in a hospital, from deliberate attack.

Galic was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the siege of Sarajevo, for the campaign of terror that the Bosnian Serb Army had unleashed on the citizens of Sarajevo. For the daily sniper and artillery attacks on the city as well as for the first Markale Massarce in February 1994, the verdict stated that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the shell had been fired from Serb positions. During the sentencing the Trial Chamber used for the first time the term “Violence Aimed at Spreading Terror among the Civilian Population” as it was designated in the Geneva Convention. The Galic verdict also mentions the topography of Sarajevo, with its ridges and high-rise buildings provided vantage-points for the Bosnian Serb sniper and artillery to target civilians in the city.

A Former UN military observer and member of the UNPROFOR team investigating the first Markale market massacre testified in November 2012 at the trial of Ratko Mladic as to what he saw and experienced during his time in Sarajevo, John Hamill an Irish Colonel talked about what it was like to be in a city under siege, he mentioned that while he was there, on one day 3777 shells were fired at the city within the space of twelve hours. Hamill had previously testified at the trial of Stanislav Galic with regards to the first Markale Massacre. During his time in Sarajevo Hamill interviewed several Bosnian Serb officers, including colonel Radislav Cvetkovic who confirmed to Hamill that “30,000 to 40,000 shells” had been fired on the city the previous year and wondered why so much fuss was made about a single shell that fell on the Markale market.

Bare cemetery, overlooking Sarajevo. Many of the victims are buried there.

One of the most terrifying aspects of the siege was the introduction of so-called ”Modified Air Bombs” which really served only one purpose : To kill and injure as many people as possible, according to the Dragomir Milosevic verdict the bombs were heavy, clumsy and served no military purpose. Every time one of these was fired towards the city Milosevic was playing russian roulette with Sarajevo residents’ lives, according to the evidence that was put forward the effects of these so-called ”Modified Air Bombs” were overwhelming when it comes to the killing of civilians, and the psychological aspect it had on the civilian population. These clumsy mostly improvised devices usually fired from mobile launchers had zero success rate, they could land just about anywhere and cause huge damage. During the ongoing the trial of Ratko Mladic a French UN officer described the damage such a device could cause. According to the witness on the 28th of June 1995 a so-called MAB ( Modified Air Bomb ) hit the TV building in Sarajevo, the explosion was extremely loud, almost like a train collision and the device itself was so large and flew so slowly that one could actually see it before it hit the TV building.

The witness who was an UNPROFOR official based in Sarajevo also testified about Bosnian Serb Army´s sniper activity in the city, according to the witness, the Serbs did not adhere to any ethical principals, “the shooting was very random.” “They basically wanted to crush the city, its inhabitants and their morale, and the sniper shootings seemed very logical in that regard – they were a means to achieve that goal.” According to the witness.

A “gravity bomb” or “A Modified Air Bomb” aircraft bombs modified into self-propelled projectiles launched from the ground.

During the trial of Dragomir Milosevic in 2007 Thorbjorn Overgard testified about an attack that he personally witnessed in the Sarajevo suburb Hrasnica. Overgard, a UN monitor from Norway confirmed that the terror campaign against Sarajevo was “enhanced” after Milosevic took over the command of Sarajevo-Romanija Corps in late 1994. The prosecution had put forward the notion that Milosevic had simply continued where Stanislav Galic had left of, the campaign of terror against the civilian population continued, and was enhanced and enlarged by the use of modified air bombs. Overgard was witness to the destructive impact of the modified air bombs. As a member of the UN monitoring mission located in Sarajevo’s Hrasnica suburb. He witnessed an attack on 7 April 1995 in which a house was razed to the ground and caused damage to the houses in a radius of several hundred meters. The Norwegian major remembers having seen one or two legs sticking out of the ruins. He also added that there was no way that this was a military attack or collateral damage since the nearest Bosnian Army facility in Hrasnica was located one kilometer from the site of the blast. According to Overgard, an experienced air force officer, it´s impossible to control and guide these bombs, especially if the fired from an “an alternative source” in this case a truck.

Long before Dr Bakir Nakas came face to face in Hague with one of the architects of the siege of Sarajevo he witnessed on a daily basis the pain and suffering both physical and psychological that was being inflicted on the residents of the city by those besieging it. As a member of the staff at Sarajevo´s former Military Hospital, ( Vojna Bolnica) later renamed Sarajevo State Hospital. During the siege Nakas and his colleagues had the almost impossible task of taking care of the wounded, the victims of the siege. In many cases they were young children hit by shrapnel while playing, or by sniper fire. Or pregnant women, the elderly, students, workers and soldiers. Nobody in Sarajevo was safe, and nobody was more exposed then those tasked with taking care of the injured and the helpless. The hospital was directly hit by over 200 shells, as well as sniper fire, Serbs also used modified anti-air craft guns to fire at many of the buildings in the city.

Now a new Bosnian documentary chronicles the struggle of the hospital staff during the three and half year long siege. At the beginning of the siege the hospital lost three quarters of it´s medical staff. Given that this was a military hospital a great deal of the employees agreed with the wars JNA and the Milosevic regime in Belgrade was by then waging in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and decided to leave while others decided to stay. Those that stayed faced an impossible situation, heavily understaffed they were at the same tasked with treating an increasing number of patients with severe wounds.

As a result of the siege there also a lack of water and power the hospital had lost fifty percent of its capacity during the very beginning of the siege. There was nowhere to put the patients. The patient ward was heavily exposed to the shelling. Patients were housed in basements and hallways. Hospital engineers were forced to dig wells around the hospital grounds in order to find water. Doctors recall several instances when pregnant woman would came running in the hospital carrying their wounded child in her arms, while expecting another one. Sometimes the doctors managed to save the children’s lives other times they did not.

A lot of the time despite the best efforts of the doctors the wounds were so severe that there was nothing that could be done. The hospital only had one power generator, which they used only when they had to do emergency surgery on a patient. Rest of the time they used candles. The bandages were recycled, they were washed dried and used again. As well as catheters, they were washed, boiled and sterilized so that they could be used again. Transfusions were given only to those that needed it most. However despite the hardships the staff persisted, adapted and rose up to the challenges they faced. The Sarafix external fracture fixation system was developed at the hospital during the war, in total 4000 of these were made at the hospital during the war. The system which is now world-renowned was born like so many great inventions out of sheer necessity. Many of the procedures that the staff adopted out of sheer necessity have now become standard practice in hospitals around the world.

The documentary, narrated by a former patient in the hospital, Marko Zita shows the quit determination and heroism of the men and women that cared for the victims of the siege, it also shows how they found time to make the patients forget about the horrors of war, even if it was for a brief moment. In the basement of the hospital, ballet performances were held for the patients and the staff, some of Bosnia´s most famous musicians preformed in the hospital, including Mladen Vojicic Tifa, Davorin Popovic, and Hanka Paldum. Sadly patients and staff were reminded of their predicament by the Bosnian Serbs on a regular basis. On New Year’s Eve 1993 it was decided that all the lights in the hospital would be turned on for fifteen minutes to cheer up the patients. The hospital was immediately struck by seven shells from the surrounding hills.

The military hospital as it was once called changed its name during the war to Sarajevo State Hospital. In 2006 it changed it again, today the hospital is called Abdullah Nakas General Hospital, named after its most prominent chief surgeon, Abdullah Nakas was chief surgeon at the hospital for well over 30 years. His colleagues remember him as a great humanist, a great surgeon a great leader and a great intellectual. He rarely left the hospital during the war and worked 1500 consecutive days during the war and its aftermath.

The documentary is a tribute to the heroism and determination of the doctors and rest of the staff of one particular hospital. However lets not forget that only a short drive away, up the hill was Sarajevo University Clinical Centre Kosevo, just as exposed shelled 264 times by 1994 and it´s staff just as heroic. Above all, for me this is a tribute not only to the heroic efforts of the doctors and the medical staff of Sarajevo´s Military Hospital, but to the heroic efforts of Dr Ilijaz Pilav and his staff during Ratko Mladic´s ruthless campaign against Srebrenica and Zepa in 1993, or the doctors and medical staff in Gorazde, Zepa, Bihac, the heroic efforts of the doctors in East Mostar and other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina during almost four years of merciless genocidal aggression on the country. The unsung heroes of the defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the healthcare professionals, physicians the caregivers and the healers.


11:00 am: the assassination

By pure chance Gavrilo Princip, the third conspirator to attempt the assassination, was waiting on the corner. At a metre and a half range, he fired two rounds from a Browning FN M1910 semi-automatic pistol.

One of the rounds passed through the door of the vehicle, hitting the Archduke’s wife Sophie in the abdomen, severing her stomach artery. The other had hit Franz Ferdinand in the neck, grazing his jugular vein. Both were mortal wounds and the two passengers were confirmed dead half an hour later.

The murder of Franz Ferdinand is one of the seminal moments of 20th century European history, sparking the July Crisis that led to the First World War.


Watch the video: Getting to know the city of Sarajevo through streets and roads - stage number 6 (January 2022).