It is nearly three years since Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo, lighting the spark that engulfed the European continent in war. Gavrilo Princip, the man who pulled the trigger, languishes in an Austro-Hungarian jail, his youth saving him from the death penalty. Other members of his gang have either been executed or are also in prison (where Chabrinovitch, who threw a bomb at the Arch Duke, died last year).
But there are other conspirators who did not fall into the hands of the Austro-Hungarians. Princip and his comrades were aided by elements within the Serbian intelligence service led by Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, generally known by his code-name Apis. Apis ran a secret organisation called the Black Hand that supplied arms to Princip and his associates. Whether the Black Hand was operating in defiance of Serbia’s political leaders or with their connivance remains a mystery.
Since Franz Ferdinand’s assassination Serbia has reaped the whirlwind. Its territory has been overrun and its army chased out of the country. Famine and disease have decimated the country. What remains of the Serbian state now exists in exile in northern Greece. These straitened circumstances may have encouraged some reflection by Serbian leaders on whether allowing the Black Hand a free hand had really been such a good idea. Earlier this year Prince Alexander, Serbia’s regent, and Pašić, the prime minister, had Apis and his Black Hand associates arrested on charges ostensibly unrelated to Franz Ferdinand’s murder. Today they are executed by firing squad.
Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary has been engaging in back channel negotiations with the French. He may also have made contact with the Serbians and demanded the execution of Apis and the others as a pre-condition for the restoration of Serbian territory. Or perhaps Alexander and Pašić simply feel that Apis represented a political threat and had to be eliminated. Either way, justice of a kind has now caught up with these men whose actions brought death and destruction to the continent.
Dragutin Dimitrijević in 1915 (Wikipedia)
Dimitrijević and his fellow conspirators (plus an unidentified woman) (Wikipedia, which says that this picture was taken after Dimitrijević and the others had been sentenced to death)