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Oskar Potiorek (Die Sonne geht im Reich nie unter...)

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Oskar Potiorek

Oskar Potiorek

Oskar Potiorek (November 20, 1853 - December17, 1933) was an Austrian general who served as the governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1911 and 1914. Potiorek was a co-passenger in the car carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Duchess Sophie Chotek when they were assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, in an event which is seen as the start of the First World War.

General Potiorek had invited Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie to watch his troops on maneuvers. The royal couple arrived in Sarajevo by train and went to Philipovic army camp where Franz Ferdinand performed a brief review of the troops. Potiorek was waiting to take the royal party to the City Hall for the official reception. Potiorek was in the second car with Count von Harrach and the royal couple. At 10.10, when the six car possession passed the central police station, Nedeljko Cabrinovic hurled a hand grenade at the archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards the car and the grenade exploded under the wheel of the next car.

After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand asked about visiting the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. A member of the archduke's staff, Baron Morsey, suggested this might be dangerous, but Potiorek, who was responsible for the safety of the royal party, replied, "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?"

In order to avoid the city centre, General Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street, where one of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was standing on the corner at the time. When the driver began to back up the car, the assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. Others in the car were not injured.

No evidence has been found to support suggestions that the Archduke's low-security visit to Sarajevo was arranged by elements within Austro-Hungarian official circles with the intention of exposing him to the risk of assassination so as to remove a potentially troublesome royal personage from the scene.

Princip later claimed that the bullet that killed Sophia was meant for Potiorek. It is speculated that this "survivor's guilt" led him to take charge of the Austrian-Hungarians fighting the Serbians. He was reportedly very zealous in his actions (multiple times he claimed "I was spared at Sajajevo so that I may die avenging it!") but was apparently an inept commander, and was quickly given a job away from the front lines.

Following Austrian victory in the First World War, Potiorek was given what was believed to be the easy responsibility of eliminating the remaining rebels in the newly annexed territories in the Balkans. His intense zealotry made him ruthless in hunting down the rebels, an attitude which very quickly escalated the simple mop-up operation into the Balkan Genocide of 1918.

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