Monday, June 23, 2014
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was Assassinated (June 28, 1914)
This week in crime history – June 23-29: Klaus Fuchs, Soviet spy was released from a British prison (June 23, 1959); Yale professor David Gelernter was injured by a bomb sent by the Unabomber (June 24, 1993); Congress passes the Mann Act (June 25, 1910); Serial killer Melvin Rees claims another victim (June 26, 1957); Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro was assassinated (June 26, 1541); Mormon leader Joseph Smith was murdered (June 27, 1844); Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated (June 28, 1914); Boston doctor Dirk Greineder was found guilty of murdering his wife (June 29, 2001).
Highlighted crime of the week -
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I by early August. Five years later on the same day, Germany and the Allied Powers signed the Treaty of Versailles, officially marking the end of World War I.
The archduke traveled to Sarajevo in June 1914 to inspect the imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908. The annexation had angered Serbian nationalists, who believed the territories should be part of Serbia. A group of young nationalists hatched a plot to kill the archduke during his visit to Sarajevo, and after some missteps, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip was able to shoot the royal couple at point-blank range, while they traveled in their official procession.
The assassination set off a rapid chain of events, as Austria-Hungary immediately blamed the Serbian government for the attack. Because Russia supported Serbia, Austria asked for assistance from Germany. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the fragile peace between Europe's great powers collapsed, beginning the devastating conflict now known as World War I.
After more than four years of bloodshed, the Great War ended on November 11, 1918, after Germany, the last of the Central Powers, surrendered to the Allies. The Versailles Treaty, signed on June 28, 1919, tragically failed to achieve its objective of eliminating global war. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s grand dreams of an international peace-keeping organization faltered when put into practice as the League of Nations. Even worse, the harsh terms imposed on Germany, the war's biggest loser, led to widespread resentment of the treaty and its authors in that country, a resentment that would culminate in the outbreak of World War II twenty years later.
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