Chapter twelve: Sarajevo and World War One

Seymour Yakovlevich was of the first class. In his party was his wife, Lior, and his three daughters. Aviv, Dalia and Eliana all born with two years between them. The oldest now sixteen, the youngest ten. There was a boy but he had died in a program by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This death was especially hard on Seymour’s wife.  Lior adored the boy and could not get over the death.  A few days out of the port she hurled herself off the ship.  She disappeared below the waves leaving her husband a widower and the children without a mother.  She had become catatonic losing her son, her home and her surroundings.  Money did not amount for much when the son she adored was taken from her.  The son was named for Seymour’s dead grandfather, Abraham. Jews do not name their children after a living person. Therefore, juniors and seniors are not in their vocabulary. They had brought two servants with them who were also allowed to join them on the privileged list.  Barouch had spent much time with his Uncle Seymour and as he was sixteen had set up a relationship with the eldest, Eliana.  In the beginning Uncle Seymour was okay with this situation but now he showed displeasure with Barouch.  Schiff had connections in Ohio and within a short time the Yakovlevich family moved.  Frieda and Barouch were given an apartment in New York City.  Deep down Barouch felt that the move to Ohio was to break up the puppy love he felt for Eliana.

Barouch was enrolled in a Yeshiva School that was started and owned by Schiff and his colleagues.  While he was in attendance there, Schiff was courting Frieda.  In a short period of time he was bedding her.  Barouch was not stupid, he sensed what was going on.  He looked forward to going to school.  It was not that he disliked Schiff but he found him cold. He sensed he was in the way.  Frieda was too old to conceive children but Schiff had three with the wife he was cheating on.  Schiff was using Frieda as a source of venting frustration.  She was his go to girl when he felt pressure.  And he was getting a lot of that from work.  It was 1915 and the world was in chaos.  It turned out that one spark was all it took to lead Europe into a World War.

In Europe there was a Prussian King aching for war.  The Russians were also turbulent.  After the killing of the tsar and his wife, children and even their servant staff, the Lenin regime was certainly not stable.  His bank had made many a loan to Jews running from the Tsar, from the Kaiser and many of the same countries of Europe.



The spark occurred on June 28th, 1914.  There was tension but this action forced the hand of many agreements which resulted in the fighting of World War One.  Franz Ferdinand decided to go to Sarajevo.  He was the heir to the Austrian Empire.  He decided to go to the town in an open car and wave to his people.   Joining him was his wife.  There was a group that wished to have Bosnia become independent from Austria.

Image result for a picture of ferdinand and wife being assassinated in sarajevo




There had been trouble at the start of his royal tour of Sarajevo when another car in his entourage was hit by a grenade and an Austrian officer had been injured. Clearly, Sarajevo was a dangerous place to be.

However, Franz Ferdinand wanted to demonstrate that his family was in control of Sarajevo and to have stopped the tour would have been seen as a sign of weakness by those who did not want Bosnia and Sarajevo ruled by the Austrians.

Franz ordered that his route through Sarajevo be changed at the last minute as he wanted to see the injured officer in hospital. Unfortunately, his driver did not fully understand his instructions and got lost.

Stopping to check where he was, the driver attempted to reverse out on to the main street. By bad luck, he stopped right by a man called Gavrilo Princip. He was a member of the Black Hand Gang which wanted to rid Bosnia of Austrian rule. He had also been behind the grenade throwing and was now trying to disguise himself among the many people who lined the streets fearing the police might arrest him. Not believing his luck, Princip pulled out the revolver he had on him and shot Franz and his wife. Both died as a result.

But how did this murder of an unpopular man lead to war?

A country called Serbia was blamed by Austria for this murder. Serbia was near to Bosnia and it had encouraged the Black Hand Gang and given the gang weapons. What did Serbia want out of this? She hoped that both herself and Bosnia would unite to form a new Balkan state.

Austria decided that Serbia must be punished and planned to invade her. Serbia called on her old friend Russia to help her. Now the alliance/entente came in to play. One country from each was involved on opposite sides. The situation could only get worse.

Serbia would have been easy for Austria to crush. Russia was a different issue. She had a huge army and Austria would not have coped with a Austro-Russian war. Austria called on Germany for help. The German government agreed to this and their response provoked the French government.

However, unknown to anybody other than the German government, the German army had created a plan called the Schlieffen Plan. Schlieffen was a senior German army officer and he believed that the German army was superior to any army in Europe but that it could not fight a war on two fronts – France and Russia.

However, he calculated that the vast Russian army would take 6 weeks to get itself organised – called mobilisation – and that in that time, the Germans could attack the French, beat them and then send their army across Europe to fight the Russians. The German High Command accepted this plan. But it had one problem. It relied on what the French or Russians did and the actions of one would provoke a German response and not the other way round. In other words, the Germans had to react to a situation as opposed to controlling it.

When France called up her army, Germany had no choice but to carry out the Schlieffen Plan. This plan involved an attack on France via Belgium.

Britain had given Belgium a guarantee in 1839 that if anybody attacked her, Britain would attack the attacker.

Therefore, within weeks of the murder at Sarajevo, five out of the six countries that had signed the two treaties were on the verge of war.

On August 4th, 1914, Germany invaded Belgium. Britain declared war on Germany. France and Russia supported Britain. Austria supported Germany. Only Italy did not get involved – yet.

Every country concerned was convinced that the war would last only from August to Christmas 1914. No-one envisaged the horrors of trench warfare.


With the First World War, Schiff, found his bank financing illegal ammunition going to all sides.  He sought solace in the arms of his mistress for his wife was as cold as ice.

Barouch did not get involved with the politics of the time.  He just wanted to keep out of Schiff’s way.  He did not relish Yeshiva life but he used it to get out of the house.





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