Biography excerpt – The End

Gavrilo Princip - The EndThe prison cell where he spent his last years before dying in the prison hospital in 1918. Theresienstadt was built as a fortress for the Austrian Empire and then became a prison. Under the Third Reich, it was a concentration camp. It is now a museum. Gavrilo Princip remains its most famous inmate: a distinction he would have regarded with ambivalence.

Gavrilo Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez were all three convicted of murder and treason at their trial in Sarajevo and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment, which they began to serve in Theresienstadt Prison in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic.)

Gavrilo Princip's cell and chainConditions in the prison were anything but Bohemian and whether or not they entered prison with the seeds of tuberculosis already implanted in 1914, all three soon showed themselves to be victims.

They were chained day and night, with poor food, minimum exercise, and little or no contact with other prisoners. Princip was interviewed by a prison psychiatrist, Dr Martin Pappenheim, but was not prepared to discuss the details of the assassination. He was aware of its consequences, and regarded his life as already over. His main regret in prison was the shortage of reading—books for me signify life—and he was unable to organize his thoughts without them.

The three prisoners wasted away and by 1918 all three were dead, with Princip, who had had his lower arm amputated because of the tuberculosis of the bone, the last to die. His body was buried in an unmarked grave but later disinterred and removed to Sarajevo, where it lies in an obscure grave on the outskirts of the old city and is not on the main tourist circuit. In death, as in life, Gavrilo Princip remains a marginal and yet disquieting presence.