Attacks against ethnic Serb civilians

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo was followed by angry Croats and Muslims engaging in violent anti-Serb demonstrations during the evening of June 28 and for much of the day during the 29th of June. These events led to a deep division along ethnic lines that was unprecedented in the city’s history. This was because most Croats and many Muslims considered that the Archduke represented the best chance for the establishment of a South Slav political entity within the Habsburg Empire. The crowd directed its anger principally at shops owned by ethnic-Serbs and at residences of prominent Serbs. The mob attacked the cluster of structures near the New Serbian Orthodox Church, threw stones at the metropolitan’s residence and sacked the Serbian Orthodox School. Other smaller groups stoned the building that housed the Serb cultural society Prosvjeta, sacked a Serb bank, and trashed the offices of the newspaper Srpska Riječ. They singled out shops of Serb merchants including the family business of one of the men who was involved in the Archduke’s assassination, Neđeljko Čubrinović, and attacked Serb residences. Two ethnic-Serbs were killed that day by crowd violence. That night there were anti-Serb demonstrations in other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austro-Hungarian soldiers executing Serb civilians during World War I
Austro-Hungarian soldiers executing Serb civilians during World War I

Incited by anti-Serbian propaganda and ordered by the command of the Austro-Hungarian Army, soldiers committed numerous atrocities against the Serbian people on the territory of Serbia and Austria-Hungary. According to the Swiss criminologist and observer R.A. Reiss, it was a “system of extermination”. In addition to executions of prisoners of war, civilian populations were subjected to mass murder and rape. Villages and towns were burned and looted. Fruit trees were cut down and water wells were poisoned in an effort on the Austro-Hungarian part to get the Serb inhabitants to not return. Also, the invading Bulgarian Army committed numerous atrocities, particularly in Niš and the town of Surdulica.

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