Sunday, June 29, 2014

Deutschlandlied in Sarajevo

I used to enjoy the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concerts. Having been raised in an atheist society, I never stopped to wonder why a traditional concert in the capital of a staunchly Catholic thousand-year empire was held on January 1, rather than, say, Christmas Day. Then I found out the tradition was established in 1938, by none other than Josef Goebbels.

Another revelation came last year: a Bosnian-born journalist tracked down the photograph showing Adolf Hitler gazing at the marble plaque honoring Gavrilo Princip - the Bosnian Serb who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. A modest monument, funded privately, the plaque had been put up in 1930. Within days of the Nazi occupation in 1941, the plaque was taken down and presented to Hitler as a birthday present. He had it displayed at the same museum as the railway car from Compiegne in which Germany had signed the armistice in 1918 - and where he insisted the French sign their surrender in 1940.
(Heinrich Hoffmann/Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München/Bildarchiv)
In 1914, warmongers in Vienna used the assassination (ironically, it was the Archduke who had kept them in check) to launch a war of extermination against Serbia, which eventually destroyed the Hapsburg empire instead. Attempts have been made to blame the Serbs and Serbia for the Great War ever since.

The latest round of revisionism came as the centenary of the war approached. On June 28, mainstream media throughout the West carried stories about the "Serbian" assassin of the Archduke and his wife (Sophie Chotek was killed accidentally; Princip was aiming at General Potiorek, the hated military governor of Bosnia) and the assassination treated as the actual cause - and beginning - of the war. This fits the current narrative of (Western) European unity - under the Atlantic Empire - fighting the "evil" Russians and "troublemaker" Serbs, but it has little to do with the truth.

Franz Ferdinand may have been set up to die; his motorcade's exact route had been published in local newspapers in advance. His visit was scheduled for Vidovdan, a day the Serbs remember - among other things - for a brave captain who killed the Ottoman sultan during the 1389 battle. The assassin who threw a bomb at the motorcade en route to the City Hall missed. When the Archduke's car returned along the same route, the young Princip was more successful.

Three weeks later, Austria handed Serbia an ultimatum designed to be rejected. On July 28, Austrian guns opened up on Belgrade, actually starting the war.

The Sarajevo City Hall was later turned into a library. In 1992, during the Bosnian War, its interior caught fire - allegedly as a result of Serb shelling. The new City Hall (another Austrian administrative building) was torched in February this year by Western-backed "democratic protesters." Perhaps some of them were the very "persons unknown" who, in 1992, took a hammer to the marble monument to Princip erected to replace Hitler's trophy.

Yesterday, on the centenary of the assassination, the Vienna Philharmonic that Goebbels helped make famous performed in same old City Hall where the angry Archduke had impatiently fidgeted through the sycophantic speech of Sarajevo's mayor. On their repertoire was the Second Movement of Joseph Haydn's String Quartet, op. 76/3 ("Emperor Quartet"), based on the Austrian imperial anthem, "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" - and the German national anthem, the Deutschlandlied. And though modern Germany uses only the third stanza, the first stanza - used by the Nazis - remains seared into the Serbs' collective memory.

A century after that day in Sarajevo, Croats and Slovenes are back in a union with Austria and Hungary. Bosnian Muslims alternately revere the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans. The Serbs are again demonized and downtrodden, and the old Austrian-sown hatreds are setting Ukraine ablaze. The Great War is still being fought, it seems.

Before dying in his cell in Terezin - later used by the Nazis to torture Jews imprisoned in the Teresienstadt transit camp - Princip reportedly wrote: "Our shadows shall wander Vienna, roaming the court, haunting the lords."

So when I see the mocking "news" stories, read the revisionist "histories" and hear the bars of the Austrian and German anthem played in a town no longer my home, I can't help but think all that is just whistling past the graveyard of empires, a fearful - and ultimately doomed - attempt to keep the ghost of Gavrilo Princip and his comrades at bay. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

+ for the poetic ending! Very useful info.