The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/New Light on the Sarajevo Murders (2)

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The Bohemian Review, volume 1, no. 5 (1917)
New Light on the Sarajevo Murders (2)
2972159The Bohemian Review, volume 1, no. 5 — New Light on the Sarajevo Murders (2)1917

New Light on the Sarajevo Murders.

By Dr. B. Novotný. (Concluded)

In the fall of 1913 extensive manœuvres took place in Southern Bohemia. Conrad of Hoetzendorf was chief of staff, General Auffenberg was commander of the southern army and archduke Francis Ferdinand commanded the northern army. As usual the war play was settled in advance and it was arranged that the archduke’s army was to win. Both generals who enjoyed the favor of the archduchess looked with contempt on the heir to the throne as a man without ability or intelligence in matters political and military. In order to please their patroness they made up their minds to watch for an opportunity at the manœuvres to make the heir ridiculous. The opportunity came. The archduke wished to show to his wife and children what the clash of armies on a great scale looked like. He went to the scene of mimic battle with his entire family in an automobile, and to show them something dramatic and exciting he ordered his cavalry to attack Auffenberg’s entire army. That was Auffenberg’s chance. While the archduke was explaining the brilliant scene to his family, Auffenberg broke the cavalry, surrounded the larger part of the northern army and ended the manœuvres by capturing the archduke himself with his family and automobile.

Ferdinand, deeply humiliated, hid himself in Konopiste, while Auffenberg was received by Marie Valerie as a hero. The big army officers could talk of nothing else and waited expectantly what the archduke would do. But nothing happened, except that the prestige of Francis Ferdinand sank still lower and the courtiers had new material for their jokes. Auffenberg and Hoetzendorf waited for their reward.

After Sarajevo the Vienna press demanded an investigation which would fix the responsibility upon the persons who advised the imperial heir to visit the South Slav provinces at a time, when the antidynastic sentiment in Bosnia and Herzegovina was at its highest, when Governor Potiorek must have known that his capital seethed with conspiracies. No action was taken by the government upon this demand. Only once it seemed that the mystery would be cleared up, but the man who knew what took place behind the scenes was suppressed in time. It was this way:

Marie Valerie did not forget Auffenberg’s glorious exploit at the expense of Francis Ferdinand. When war broke out, the discredited war minister was made commander of Austria’s largest army, the one that was to capture Lublin. The military clique of Vienna who had hurried the dual empire into the war were very confident as to the great rôle to be played by Austria’s brave army. They assured the Kaiser that Austria was perfectly competent to take care of Russia, while he turned his attention to the West. Even in case the soldiers of Francis Joseph failed to smash the Russian armies, they could hold them back on Russian territory, until the victorious German armies could be shifted to the East and overthrow the Russian colossus. Auffenberg expected to gain triumphs, and he threw his armies without hesitation into the Lublin morassses. A few weeks later he saw his command defeated, routed, captured.

When he returned to Vienna, he was faced with the charge of absolute incompetence, and although Marie Valerie was still his friend she could not uphold him in view of his discreditable record in the field. Auffenberg was sent to his villa in Styria as a superannuated general. In the meantime the campaign against Serbia was equally unlucky. General Frank was defeated, Bohemian regiments mutinied and surrendered. At that stage of the Serbian campaign Marie Valerie took a hand in the game. General Potiorek was called to the old emperor at the suggestion of the emperor’s daughter, and promised his sovereign than if placed in charge of the southern army he would present to him the capital of Serbia not later than December 2, 1914, the anniversary of the emperor’s accession to the throne.

Potiorek kept his word. On December 2 he actually was in Belgrade with an Austrian army. But a few days later his army was in flight, his artillery and munitions captured, and the Serbian campaign ended more disgracefully than even the Austrian invasion of Russia.

It was a catastrophe. Heinold, the minister of the interior, and Krobatin, minister of war, admitted that much frankly in the state council. Once more a favorite of the archduchess, one who had exhibited so much ability of the intriguing kind in times of peace, brought the monarchy into discredit and worse. Military exigencies required the displacement of the incompetent general. He was placed on the reserve list with the understanding that his services would not be called for any more. But unfortunately the military code provided that a commander who failed should render an account before the court martial. Marie Valerie would not let her protege be punished or officially disgraced. She made use of a scheme frequently employed in the noble families of Austria to avoid responsibility for criminal or disgraceful actions. At her suggestion the blame of the general’s failure was put on his physician. He was found guilty for not reporting promptly that Potiorek suffered frequently from severe mental aberrations. The doctor was punished for the great man’s incompetence.

In February 1915, when the Russians menaced Cracow and the Carpathians, Auffenberg became tired of his enforced rest. Suddenly he appeared before minister Krobatin and asked for the command of another army. General Krobatin was dumfounded by the impudence of the discredited general and curtly refused even to consider the request, feeling that officers would object to service under a leader who left his last army in the marshes of Russian Poland. Auffenberg, however, imagined that he was not treated fairly. He knew that men who held responsible military posts were no better qualified than he, and not one of them had such claim to the gratitude of the Court for services rendered against the dead archduke. His challenge to Krobatin became known in Vienna and created consternation among the courtiers and even among the archduchesses: “If I do not get command at once, I shall expose publicly how Vienna selects generals for the armies of the emperor.”

The threat was not taken lightly by those to whom it was addressed. Auffenberg had taken chief part in the intrigues against Francis Ferdinand; he knew how ministries and laws and political history were made in Austria; he knew why Potiorek was placed in command of the southern army. If this man should reveal what was done behind the scenes, what a tremendous scandal would arise. Why, persons of the very highest rank would find their reputations tarnished. Ministers who were on the inside, the courtiers around Marie Valerie, General Krobatin himself urged that Auffenberg be suppressed. There was no lack of pretexts. Why not make use of the old charge of graft in connection with the sale of rifles to Roumania? It did not matter that this charge had been made a long time ago and did not prevent Auffenberg’s promotion to the command of Austria’s biggest army. Auffenberg was hauled before a court martial, placed in custody, his papers and effects were searched several times, he was examined and cross-examined, until his arrogance was properly reduced, and then he was offered terms. If he would keep quiet until the end of the war, he would be reinstated in his old command as soon as fighting was over; he might again become minister with opportunities to acquire a fortune. But he must efface himself for the present, for the army would have none of him. Should he refuse these terms, the court martial will be ordered to proceed with the utmost strictness, he will be found guilty of defrauding the state, his property will be confiscated and he himself sentenced to a term in the fortress prison. Marie Valerie approved these terms and used her influence to convince the general that he had better accept them.

Auffenberg realized that his adversaries were too strong for him and gave up the fight. The court martial announced publicly that investigation into Auffenberg's conduct as war minister established his complete integrity. The world lost a chance of finding out how history was made in the Court of Vienna. But enough got out to cause the historian to doubt the sincerity of Austrian rulers, when they proclaimed war on Serbia to avenge the death of the imperial heir.

There will hardly be another chance during the war to uncover the truth. Today German generals dispose of the armies of the new Austrian emperor, and German officials sit on the lid in Vienna. But when the war is over and the empire of the Hapsburgs is a thing of the past, then we may expect the full truth to come out. And the truth will utterly condemn all those who were responsible for the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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