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upon the atrocities committed by the
Austro-Hungarian army during the first invasion of Serbia
Rodolphe Archibald Reiss
Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd., London
Published in 1916.
Back to the introduction of the book.
Massacres and atrocities perpetrated on civilians
Pages 30 - 33:
I have spared no effort in verifying the excesses committed by the
Austro-Hungarian Army against the civil population in the invaded
territory. In this enedeveavour I employed the following methods:
Interrogation of Austro-Hungarian prisoners, interrogation of Serbian
eye-witnesses, both civilian and military, the study of the Serbian
official reports placed at my disposal by the military authorities, which
reports I perued with a view to arriving at statistics, as well as the
lists compiled by the civil authorities and obtained by me on the spot or
forwarded to me by the said authorities, and finally, the personal
inspection of the localities where the massacres and atrocities had been
Eye-witnesses were examined on the spot and in most cases they were my
guides to the places where the outrages had taken palce. Thus I was
afforded the opportunity of verifying the truth of thier statemnets by
actual and personal inspection. Besides this I have been at pains by
corroborative evidence to assure myself of the reliability of my
witnesses and of the authenticity of the facts laid before me.
I have thought it advisible, although you are in possession of the
original documents, likewise to include copies of some of the military
reports in this paper.
In most cases these reports agree with the information I was able to
obtain elsewhere. Yet, I think that they are less reliable with regard to
certain occurrences, than the evidence I have gathered from
eye-witnesses. As a matter of fact, these reports were made from life, so
to say, or, correctly speaking, directly after the excesses had been
committed. It is an undeniable fact that at the time all minds were
wrought up to a great pitch of excitement, and that since then the
imagination has undergone the inevitable reaction, with the result that
both such incidents as had been observed by the officers themselves, and
such as had been reported to them by eye-witnesses, would bear a fuller
As regards the statements I have personally taken from eye-witnesses, I
believe that I may safely assert that they represent the truth. First of
all, the personal investigations I was in many cases able to make,
confirm them entirely. Secondly, the minds of the witnesses, by far the
most of whom peasants, had calmed down since the time when the Austrians
committed the atrocities. The danger of exaggeration from excitement,
which is so natural in the first moment, was to a great extent
eliminated. I also noted that the Serbs peasants
are very reserved
indeed, and I am convinced that they are more inclined to say too little
than too much. Finally, misfortune has depressed them to such an extent
(without however depriving them of their courage in fighting the enemy)
that they have almost come to accept the evils that have fallen upon them
as natural and inevitable. This is a state of mind which does not
predispose to exaggeration. Thus the number of the wounded, which I
adduce in the statistical notes at the foot of the chapter, certainly
falls far below the actual number, because the great majority of the
victims did not report their case to the authorities. I have had proof of
this fact in many localities, where I asked for the number of the
wounded. The mayor or his deputy would give me a figure which my personal
inquiry proved to be too small by far. Thus, at Lipolist the mayor gave
the number of the wounded as 5. Within one hour's search through the
village, I had found 17, and I am certain that there were even more. It
is also to be noted that even where official lists of the killed and
wounded have been drawn up, the number of the victims does not seem to be
absolutely fixed; in other words, I think there are many mor evictims
than appear in the lists.
I have also endeavoured to ascertain the number of the
cases of rape committed by the army of invasion. This was even a more
than to arrive at the number of the wounded. You, Monsieur le President,
are well aware of popularr sentiment in your country in all matters
touching the honour of the family, and you know that it is impossible, or
at least, exceedingly difficult for a girl who has been outraged to find
a husband. The families endeavour to conceal as far as possible the
misfortune tha has befallen them in the violation of their women. Hence
the utmost absolute impossibility of ascertaining the number of women who
had been subjected to lewd assaults from the soldiery of the hostile army.
I am convinced that the number of violated women and young girls is very
great, and judging by what I saw during my enquiry, I do not think that I
am mistaken in saying that in many of the invaded villages almost all
women from the very youngest to the very oldest have been violated. Upon
this matter I have collected and included in this report a certain number
of statements and typical depositions.
In this chapter you will find first of all the depositions of Austrian
prisoners of war, which I believe may be considered veracious, since they
are to the discredit of their own army. These depositions are followed
by civil and military eye-witnesses... I have in every case added a
statement of my personal verification of the wound to the deposition of
the witness. I have also in connection with the deposition of some
witnesses mentioned the result of an enquiry into circumstantial
evidence on the spot...
[Austro-Hungarian soldier, witness] No. 48, of the 26th Landsturm,
states that the men were given the order to
bayonet all living creatures, women, men and children, without
distinction. A private of the 79th Regt. told him that,
near Drenovatz, the Austrian officers made
a ring of 26 persons round a house, and then set fire to the house,
thus burning the 26 victims...
No. 50, [Austrian] hospital sergeant in the 28th Infantry
Landwehr Regt., deposes that before crossing the frontier the
officers abused the Serbs [drafted in Austro-Hungarian army
from Bosnia and Krajina] in every possible way, calling them
"barefoot," "gipsies," "assassins," "brigands," etc. All
soldiers of Serb nationality were forbidden on pain of death to
own to their race -- it was considered an act of treason.
The officers gave out that they would finish with the Serbs
in a week. Witness crossed the Drina [river which divides
Bosnia and Serbia] with other troops during the night from the
12th to the 13th of August , and at about 2 o'clock in the
morning they passed near Mali Zvornik [town]. From Zvornik they
went as far as Ljubovia. The officers
told them to shoot all that was Serbian...
All men, old men and children, were captured and driven
before the troops with bayonet thrusts. These people were
questioned as to the position of the Serbs and the comitadjis.
If their answers failed to satisfy the [Austrian] officers they
were shot immediately. In most cases, when the troops
entered a village the greater number of the hostages, or even
all of them, were killed. These unfortunate
people were almost always old men or children...
In [Velika Reka village]... there was an inn. The innkeeper
was bayoneted by Corporal Begovitch. The innkeeper's wife,
who had witnessed the scene, wrenched the rifle from the
Croat and killed him. Other Austrians threw themselves upon
her and ripped her body open from end to the end with a
bayonet. Her child was killed with the same weapon. The house
was completely sacked...
Pages 36, 37:
The Hungarians and the Croats were
the worst, but the men were
incited by their officers to commit atrocities. Wherever
the regiment passed through the officers urged them to kill
everything, cows, pigs, chicken, in fact everything whether
it was required for the subsistence of the army or not.
The men got dead-drunk, with "schnaps" in the [Serbian wine]
cellars. They allowed the liquor to run out of the barrels,
so that often the cellars were inundated with alcohol...
Pages 39 - 41:
No. 53, of the 26th Regt., deposes: ...
An Austrian soldier, one Doshan, a Croat,
boasted of having killed a woman, two old men, and a child,
and invited his comrades to go with him to have a look at his
No 56, Corporal of the 28th Landwehr Regt., deposes that in
[Serbian town of] Shabatz the Austrians
killed over 60 civilians beside the church. They had previously
been confined in the later. They were butchered with the
bayonet in order to save ammunition... There were several old
men and children among the victims.
No. 64, of the 93rd Regiment. Near [Serbian village] Ljubovia
a lieutenant of the first Company shot a
priest with his revolver. Captain Veit ordered
the corpse to be burnt.
[Child's name kept confidential] (Civil Hospital of Mrzanovatz
[Serbia]), aged 13 years. He was
herding cattle when the Austrians came. He was carried off with
5 other persons, two of whom were old men. Their hands were
pinioned, and they were led away... At a certain place all six
were placed on a hay-rick. The soldiers then fired upon them
at close range (4 to 5 meters). [The child] was wounded in the
head, and had to be trepanned. A bullet also passed through his
left arm. The wounds were verified by me.
We will skip many of the Serbian depositions here. The victims
tell how the Austrohungarian army used Serbian civilians - at
the front line - as human shields. Women, children, old men
murdered, butchered different ways. Whole families slaughtered,
burned alive... Serbian woman (Draga Petronievitch) says [page 50]
that "within the church, behind tha altar, the Austrian officers
violated young Serbian girls." ... The case of Mihailo Yankovitch,
aged 75, was mentioned on page 60. He
"was killed with rifle shots. The male organ was cut off and
placed in his mouth." ... We are skipping the depositions here.
You got some sense of what was done almost rutinely. But there is
more. Whole villages (i.e. the population that did not run in
front of the invading army) were massacred...
Breziak consists of three villages, viz.: Slatina, Donja and Gornja
Nedeljitza. In this district the Austrians killed 54 persons in varoiuos
ways. Most of them were disembowelled with great sabres that were carried
by your prisoners; this weapon has the following dimensions:
width of blade, 5 cm; thickness of the back of the blade, 0.7 cm; length
of blade, 46 cm; total length of the sabre, 63 cm. I append the names of
some of the killed, with a brief specification of their wounds:
[Serbian woman] Anitza Yezditch, aged 32, eyes put
out, nose and ears cut off.
Simo Yezditch, aged 14, nose and ears cut off.
Yelka Domitch, aged 13, nose and ears cut off.
Tzvetko Pavlovitch, eyes put out.
Krsman Kalabitch, aged 56, eyes put out, nose and ears cut off.
Smiliana Vasilievitch, aged 48, eyes put out.
[Serbian woman] Mirosava Vasilievitch,
aged 21, violated by about 40 soldiers, genital
organs cut off, her hair pushed down the vagina. She was finally
disembowelled, but only died immediately after this being done.
Lazar Petrovitch, aged 46, one hand cut off and eyes put out. (*)
Militza Petrovitch, aged 45, breasts cut off. (*)
Dobria Petrovitch, aged 18, eyes put out. (*)
Stanka Petrovitch, aged 14, eyes put out, nose cut off.(*)
Ana Petrovitch, aged 7, ears cut off. (*)
(*) One family. They were found in a ditch with their dog, pinioned and
all died together, including the dog.
Zhivko Pavlovitch, aged 50, cut in pieces. (**)
Stanitza Pavlovitch, aged 50, cut in pieces, and eyes put out as well (**)
Zorka Pavlovitch, aged 18, cut in pieces. (**)
Nikola Tomitch, aged 63, many bayonet wounds
Zhivko Madjarevitch, aged 70, eyes put out
Stanoie Madjarevitch, aged 40, ears cut off
Yotso Milovanovitch, aged 90, skin cut to ribbons
Milosav Obradovitch, aged 18, nose and ears cut off, eyes put out.
Dragoljub Isitch, aged 18, nose and ears cut off
Zhivko Peitcitch, aged 70, eyes put out, riddled with wounds
Svetozar Tomitch I, aged 54, eyes put out
Svetozar Tomitch II, aged 60, nose and ears cut off
Tzvetko Yakitch, aged 23, eyes put out
Mileva Yakitch, aged 17, violated, then killed.
Sreten Rositch, aged 26, slashed and riddled with wounds
Milivoie Rositch, aged 25 (***)
Sava Rositch, aged 50 (***)
Mihailo Rositch, aged 18 (***)
Stana Rositch, aged 50 (***)
(***) Eyes put out, riddled with bayonet wounds
Ljubomir Madjarevitch, aged 16, nose cut off, eyes put out
Stanitza Shakitch, aged 24, violated several times and bayoneted
Dragomir Shakitch, aged 35, violated several times, transpierced with a
Stana Shakitch, aged 15, violated, several bayonet wounds
Mileva Gaitch, aged 44, covered with wounds of various kinds.
All these atrocities were perpetrated by the Austrians on their arrival
on August 3rd. No one among the civil population had fired upon the
enemy, and most of the villagers had taken flight. Almost all those who
remained were massacred. The bodies of Zhivko Boitch, aged 70, and his
daughter-in-law, Pelka, aged 25, and her infant, aged 4 months, were
found later on. The bodies had been cut to pieces. An Austrian general
Staff had its headquarters in Breziak. The Yadar districts lost about 800
persons in killed and missing. Still this number does not include the
atrocities committed by the Austrians among the population of the two
communes still occupied by the troops pf Francis Joseph (October 1914)...
Smilia Vasilievitch, aged 60, of Breziak, witnessed the murder
of Smiliana Vasilievitch. After having killed her mother the Austrians
wanted to violate the daughter Mirosava, but the girl defended herself...
Yovan Milovanovitch, aged 90, and the woman [Smilia Vasilievitch] saw
the soldiers put out Mirosava's eyes, cut off her ears, and strip off
... Dr, P., Austrian Army Surgeon of Serb nationality... stated that
before crossing the frontier [of Serbia] the
Croat officers had addressed their troops in following fashion:
"You must not allow anything to live, not even a child
in mother's womb. But you must not spend your cartridges on killing
these people. As every body has two holes, let your bayonets go in
at the one and out at the other."
Starting on page 143 of the chapter "Massacres of Civilians" Professor
Reiss gives summary tables (with numbers) of how many men/women
were shot vs. killed with knives vs. hanged, disembowelled, burned alive,
had their nose, eyes, ears, arms, legs, breasts,... cut off.
Dr. Reiss reminds the reader that Austro-Hungary had signed article 50
of the Hague Convention of October 18, 1907 which stipulates:
"No collective punishment, pecuniary or otherwise, may be pronounced
upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which the
population cannot be held collectively responsible."
|The war had
cost Serbia 23 percent of its population.|
The above quote is from:
15th edition, (year: 1986),
Volume 29, Macropedia, page 1075
Entry: Yugoslavia, World War I
Serbia was extremely successful in repelling attacks of humangous
Austr-Hungarian empire for full year and a half. Then, at close of
1915 Bulgaria joined Austro-German alliance and attacked Serbia
from the back. Almost completely surrounded by enemies Serbia could not
defend itself successfully any more. The Serbian Army, together with
the Serbian King and the Parliament started withdrawing over Albanian
mountains during harsh winter. Common people joined en masse too.
People did not want to stay and wait and see what mercy would
the butchers have... Countless thousands of Serbs perished in the
snowy hights of the barelly passable Albanian mountains called
"Prokletije" (cursed mountains).
retreat of [the Serbian] king [Peter I], government,
Skupstina, and masses of the people with the Army
across Albania stands out as one of the great exploits of any war.|
The above quote is from:
15th edition, (year: 1986),
Volume 29, Macropedia, page 1075
Entry: Yugoslavia, World War I
many died during that exodus... But many of those who stayed in
their homes under Austro-Hungarian occupation got the same destiny.|
Mass slaughter of Serbian civilians was common all across Serbia.
These are sculls and bones of some 3,000 (three thousand) Serbs dug
out after the war at Surdulica a small village near Belgrade.
The first victims were usually intellectuals: priests, teachers,
The following photograph is from "The Album of the War of 1914-1918,"
by Andra Popovic, "Ratni Album," Belgrade, first printed 1926, reprinted
BIGZ, Belgrade, 1987. Page 153:
[ Introduction to Dr. Reiss' book ]
[ World War One ]
The truth belongs to us all.
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Last revised: June 11, 2004