Sarajevo, 28 June 1914


These are two photographs, taken in roughly 1914, of the building known to history as Schiller's bakery (which was really more of a delicatessen) on the corner of what are now Green Berets Street and Prince Kulin Quay in Sarajevo, formerly Franz Josef Street and Appel Quay (43.85791 N, 18.42892 E if you want to check it out for yourself). The second picture is taken from the end of the Latin Bridge, behind the photographer. This was the place where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, starting a sequence of events which resulted in the first world war. (Incidentally, there is no possible truth in the story that Princip had just popped into Schiller's for a lunchtime sandwich and spotted the Archducal car going past. Schiller would not have sold sandwiches, and the assassination took place at 10.55 am. Princip was almost certainly there for a cup of coffee, and maybe a slice of cake.)

I spent a lot of time in Sarajevo in 1997 and 1998 (though I’m sorry to say I haven’t been back since 2003), and needless to say the very first thing I did on my first visit there was to go to the scene and take my own photographs. Here they are:

I'm glad to see that unwittingly I had stood at the same place as the person who took the second photograph above, though of course there's not a lot of choice if you don't want to be in the river or the middle of the road. This of course was just after the 1992-95 war, so Sarajevo in general and Schiller's former establishment in particular in particular were not in great shape. Basically it had been looted comprehensively, and was now nothing more than a shell. Before 1992, it had been the Young Bosnia museum, commemorating Princip, and had a rather pro-Serbian slant. Note that the window nearest the river on the Green Berets side has been long since bricked up, though the bas-relief on the walls remains. Note also the square shallow pit in the pavement at the zebra crossing, and evidence of something being removed from the wall behind it. The gap in the pavement, believe it or not, was a concrete representation of Princip's footprints when he fired the fatal shot, and the plaque behind, in Serbian, explained that he had done this "for the freedom of our people" (using the word "Народ" for people, which in this particular context means Serbs only and not the other residents of Sarajevo) [edited to add: I had neglected to observe that народа here is plural, so it’s a more inclusive “freedom of our peoples” rather than “people”]. Wikipedia has a picture:

It’s interesting to note that the first picture above marks the place where the assassination happened, “Ort der Katastrophe”, as the supposed location of the Archduke’s car, rather than the place where Princip was supposedly standing.

These days the museum has been completely revamped, and is now the Sarajevo Museum 1878-1918. I got a recent photograph of it from Google Maps:


The picture is taken from across the river, so you can now see the end of the Latin Bridge. You can also see that the Young Bosnia bas-relief has been removed, and the bricked-up window has been reinstated. What you can't see is that a more modest plaque has been erected in Bosnian and English simply stating that the fatal shots were fired from "near this spot". Times change, and often history changes with them.

Actual movie footage survives of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie arriving at their last engagement, a reception at the new Sarajevo City Hall (now the National Library, which in my day was a bombed out shell)

They are buried in one of their homes, Artstetten Castle, in Austria; Konopiště Castle, their main home, which is now in the Czech Republic, is commemorating the centenary with a special exhibition. One of the pictures they have displayed is this one, showing Franz Ferdinand's car coming along the quay (which is a little dissonant for anyone who's driven there in recent times, as now it's a one-way street with traffic going in the opposite direction).

You can see pretty clearly that this is taken from the corner across Franz Josef / Green Berets Street from Schiller's – it's the same tree, and the same cardboard champagne bottle, as in my first two pictures above, and the distinctive Emperor's Mosque is visible across the river. What is obvious here, and not visible in the first two pictures, is that Schiller put had tables out on the pavement to serve his customers, taking advantage of a fine June day.

This is therefore the last photograph taken of the Archduke and Sophie before they were shot; and it's entirely possible that Princip is one of the customers in the picture; he would certainly have been only a few metres away from the photographer.

I'll leave the last word with Rebecca West:

Not having been told how supremely important it was to keep going, the puzzled chauffeur stopped dead at the corner of the side street and the quay. He came to a halt exactly athwart the corner of the side street and the quay. He came to a halt exactly in front of a young Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip, who was one of the members of the same conspiracy as Chabrinovitch and had gone back to make another attempt on the Archduke's life after having failed to draw his revolver on him during the journey to the town hall. As the automobile remained stock-still, Princip was able to take steady aim and shoot Franz Ferdinand in the heart. He was not a very good shot: he could never have brought down his quarry if there had not been this failure to give the chauffeur proper instructions. Harrach could do nothing; he was on the left side of the car, Princip on the right. When Princip saw the stout, stuffed body of the Archduke fall forward he shifted his revolver to take aim at Potoriek. He would have killed him at once had not Sophie thrown herself across the car in one last expression of her great love and drawn Franz Ferdinand to herself with a movement that brought her across the path of the second bullet. She was already dead when Franz Ferdinand murmured to her, 'Sophie, Sophie, live for our children'; and he died a quarter of an hour later. So was your life, and my life, mortally wounded.

(From Chapter XXX of Black Lamb and Grey Falcom).