Austro-Hungrarian Red Book: Count Berchtold To The Austro-Hungarian Missions, 25 July 1914 – Part III

On 25 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured), circulated a memoir to all Austro-Hungarian diplomatic missions. The memoir formed the basis of Austria-Hungary’s view of Serbia, and the Dual Monarchy’s rational during the July Crisis. From the Austro-Hungarian perspective, it lists the different forms of Serbian aggression endured since the beginning of the century. The following is part III of the memoir.

Leopold Count Berchtold

Leopold Count Berchtold

Circular Note to the Austro-Hungarian Mission. Vienna, 25 July 1914.

This kind of propaganda, which is built up on a broad basis and works for a distant future, is nothing compared to the “foreign work” of the Narodna odbrana and its friends, which deals in agitation from man to man. It is this kind which has been most successful.

Through its confidential agents and emissaries, the poison of revolt is injected to grown-up persons and to irrational youths at the same time.

Thus, Milan Pribicevic has succeeded in making the ex-officers of Honveds [i.e. the Hungarian Army] V. B., D. K., and V. N. and also the croatian-slavonian lieutenant of gendarmes V. K. leave the service of the Army of the Monarchy under suspicious circumstances, and take themselves to Servia, where they are reported to have been bitterly disappointed, and whence they are anxious to return to their homes.

The agitation, which, from Servia, spreads to the grammar schools of Bosnia and Croatia, is so generally known, that it need not here be exemplified. Perhaps it is not so well known, that the youths who are expelled from Croatian and Bosnian schools for serious offences, are received with open arms in Servia, are in some cases supported by the State and brought up as enemies of the Monarchy. The Servian schools, where hatred against the Monarchy is taught by teachers and professors who are members of the Narodna odbrana, are certainly well adapted for pupils of this kind.

One particularly noteworthy case must be quoted here as an example. In March 1914, several pupils of the Teachers Seminary in Pakrac (Croatia) were relegated on account of a strike. They left for Servia, where some were immediately appointed as teachers, whilst those who were too young were placed in a Servian Teachers’ Seminary. Well received by circles hostile to Austria-Hungary, one of these relegated students declared publicly that he and his friends would, when the Archduke-Heir to the Throne would come to Bosnia, show to the world that Bosnia was a Servian country. It is certainly very extraordinary that the Prefect of Krajna gave three of these seriously compromised young men passports to Bosnia, just at the time when Archduke Franz Ferdinand travelled in Bosnia. In the passports the youths were described as Servian subjects, which was not true, and the Prefect must have known where they belonged to, from their papers. With these passports the three pupils of the Seminary succeeded in crossing the border. They were however recognised and arrested.

But this is not sufficient to characterise the “foreign” activity of the Narodna odbrana.

It was some time since the Imperial and Royal government had received confidential information that the Narodna odbrana was acting in favour of a war with the Monarchy in a military sense, by keeping a number of emissaries in the Monarchy, who in the usual way observed by bands, would, if hostilities were to break out, help in the destruction of the means of transportation and the institutions connected with them, cause revolts and panics to break out etc.

In the course of the trial against Jovo Jaglicic and accomplices, accused of espionage before the district court of Sarajevo in 1913, the private information was confirmed. The preparation for the war of bands to this day is still contained in the Programme of the Narodna odbrana as it was from the beginning, but a system of espionage had been added later.

What the Narodna odbrana calls a “reorganised Programme” is in truth an “extended Programme”: to prepare for the war of annihilation against the Monarchy, indeed to bring it about, and afterwards to display again the Red Flag of the Narodna odbrana.

It was inevitable that in this atmosphere of openly and secretly inciting hatred against the Monarchy, and in the midst of an irresponsible agitation, which in combating Austria-Hungary considered all means allowed and advised murder as the most effective means of all, terrorism must be born, even if the official Servians who were hostile to Austria-Hungary did not cooperate.

On 8 June 1912 Lukas Jukic fired a shot against the Royal commissioner in Agram, von Cuvaj, by which the Banal councillor von Hervoic was mortally wounded. During his flight, Jukic killed a pursuing policeman and wounded two others.

The public trial has shown that the ideas, on which Jukic acted, were those developed in the propaganda of the Narodna odbrana. Though Jukic entertained plans of political murder, still his plans did not take a determined form until he had been one of the party of Agram students, who on 18 August undertook the excursion to Belgrade. During the festivities held in honour of the visitors, Jukic made friends with several persons, who belonged to the Nairodna odbrana and with these he conversed on politics. A few days afterwards, Jukic returned to Belgrade and received a bomb from a Servian major and a Browning from a comrade, and with these weapons he committed the crime.

The bomb, which was afterwards found in Agram, was declared by experts to come from an arsenal and to have been fabricated for military purposes.

The murder of Jukic was not forgotten, when on 18 August 1913 Stephen Doicic, who came from America, attempted to murder the Royal Commissioner Baron Skerlecz in Agram. This deed, inspired by the agitation among the South-Slavs living in America, is also the work of the “foreign” propaganda of the Narodna odbrana and its partisans.

The pamphlet of the Servian T. Dimitrijevic, “Natrag u staro ognjiste vase” printed in Chicago, with its outrageous attacks upon His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty and its summons to the Servians of the Monarchy to return home, as the moment of their liberation was near at hand, shows that a parallel movement was carried on in full freedom in America and at the same time on the territory of the Monarchy, and that both had their origin in Servia.

Another year passed and Agram was again the scene of a murderous attempt, which this time proved unsuccessful.

On 20 May 1914, Jacob Schafer tried to murder the Banus, Baron Skerlecz in the theatre of Agram, but a police agent prevented the deed at the last moment. The inquiry showed that there had been a plot, the soul of which was Rudolf Hercigonja. The confessions of Hercigonja and his five accomplices proved that this plot also had been construed in Servia.

Hercigonja had been implicated in a fruitless attempt to liberate Jukic and fled to Servia where with his accomplice Majoran Jaksic he sought the company of Komitatschis and members of the Narodna odbrana. As is very often the case, when young, excitable people occupy themselves with politics, the result was disastrous. Hercigonja returned home from Belgrade with the dogma proclaimed there, that the South-Slav countries must be wrenched from the Monarchy and united to the kingdom. He had also been persuaded that this ultimate aim could only be attained by doing away with high-standing persons, and that this was the only means of realising such plans.

In Agram, he spread this dogma among his friends, and persuaded some of them to his way of thinking. The first and greatest of his plans was to attempt to murder Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian heir to the throne.

To be continued…

Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits.

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