Today we marks the 85th Anniversary since the death of HM King Alexander I, in Marseille, on 9 October 1934.
Members of the Kingdom of Serbia Association have traveled to Marseille, where , they will, together with Their Royal Highnesses, Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine, pay their respects to the Knightly King!
The great ruler fell from the hands of the followers of the evil that destroyed all of Europe and the world, as well as our country, in the years after the assassination. He was the first victim of Nazism and fascism in the Europe!
May there be eternal glory to the great King! We will never forget his sacrifice!
The old video showing the murder and funeral of King Alexander I you can see on our Youtube channel on LINK
The Marseille Assassination:
After the Ustaše’s Velebit uprising in November 1932, Alexander said through an intermediary to the Italian government, “If you want to have serious riots in Yugoslavia or cause a regime change, you need to kill me. Shoot at me and be sure you have finished me off, because that’s the only way to make changes in Yugoslavia.”
The French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou had attempted in 1934 to build an alliance meant to contain Germany consisting of France’s allies in Eastern Europe like Yugoslavia together with Italy and the Soviet Union. The long-standing rivalry between Benito Mussolini and King Alexander had complicated Barthou’s work as Alexander complained about Italian claims against his country together with support for Hungarian revisionism and the Croat Ustaše terrorist group. As long as France’s ally Yugoslavia continued to have disputes with Italy, Barthou’s plans for an Italo-French rapprochement would be stillborn. During a visit to Belgrade in June 1934, Barthou promised the King that France would pressure Mussolini into signing a treaty under which he would renounce his claims against Yugoslavia. Alexander was skeptical of Barthou’s plan, noting that there were hundreds of Ustašhi being sheltered in Italy and it was rumored that Mussolini had financed an unsuccessful attempt by the Ustaše to assassinate him in December 1933. Mussolini had come to believe that it was only the personality of Alexander that was holding Yugoslavia together and if the King were assassinated, then Yugoslavia would descend into civil war, thus allowing Italy to annex certain regions of Yugoslavia without the fear of France. However, France was Yugoslavia’s closest ally and Barthou invited Alexander for a visit to France to sign a Franco-Yugoslav agreement that would allow Barthou to, in his words, “go to Rome with the certainty of success”.
As a result of the previous deaths of three family members on Tuesdays, Alexander refused to undertake any public functions on that day of the week. On Tuesday, 9 October 1934, however, he had no choice, as he was arriving in Marseille to start a state visit to France, to strengthen the two countries’ alliance in the Little Entente.
While Alexander was being slowly driven in a car through the streets along with French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, a gunman, the Bulgarian Vlado Chernozemski, stepped from the street, yelled “Long live the King” and shot the King twice, and the chauffeur, with a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. Alexander died in the car, slumped backwards in the seat, with his eyes open. One of the bullets struck Foreign Minister Barthou in the arm, passing through and fatally severing an artery. He died of blood loss less than an hour later.
It was one of the first assassinations captured on film; the shooting occurred in front of the newsreel cameraman, who was only feet away at the time. While the exact moment of shooting was not captured on film, the events leading to the assassination and the immediate aftermath were. The body of the chauffeur (who had been wounded) slumped and jammed against the brakes of the car, allowing the cameraman to continue filming from within inches of the King for a number of minutes afterwards.
The assassin was a member of the Bulgarian nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO or VMRO) and an experienced marksman. Immediately after assassinating King Alexander, Chernozemski was cut down by the sword of a mounted French policeman, and then beaten by the crowd. By the time he was removed from the scene, the King was already dead. The IMRO was a political organization that fought for secession of the region of Macedonia and becoming independent, as some form of second Bulgarian state. IMRO worked in alliance with the Croatian Ustaše group led by Ante Pavelić. Chernozemski and three Croatian accomplices had travelled to France from Hungary via Switzerland. After the assassination, Chernozemski’s accomplices were arrested by French police. A prominent diplomat with the Palazzo Chigi, Baron Pompeo Aloisi, expressed fears that the Ustashi based in Italy had killed the King, and sought reassurances from another diplomat, Paolo Cortese, that Italy not been involved. Aloisi was not reassured when Cortese told him that with Alexander dead, Yugoslavia was about to break up. Public opinion in Yugoslavia held that Italy had been crucial in the planning and directing of the assassination. Demonstrations took place outside of the Italian embassy in Belgrade together with the Italian consulates in Zagreb and Ljubljana by people blaming Mussolini for Alexander’s assassination. An investigation by the French police quickly established that the assassins had been trained and armed in Hungary, had traveled to France on forged Czechoslovak passports, and frequently telephoned Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić, who was living in Italy. The incident was later used by Yugoslavia as an argument to counter the Croatian attempts of secession and Italian and Hungarian revisionism.
Pierre Laval, who succeeded Barthou as foreign minister, wished to continue the rapprochement with Rome, and saw the assassinations in Marseille as an inconvenience that was best forgotten. Both London and Paris made it clear that they regarded Mussolini as a responsible European statesman and in private told Belgrade that under no circumstances would they allow “Il Duce” to be blamed. In a speech in Northampton on 19 October 1934, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, expressed his sympathy to the people of Yugoslavia over the king’s assassination while also saying he was convinced by Mussolini’s speech in Milan denying his involvement in the assassination. When Yugoslavia made an extradition request to Italy for Pavelić on charges of regicide, the Quai d’Orsay expressed concern that if Pavelić were extradited, he might incriminate Mussolini and were greatly reassured when their counterparts at the Palazzo Chigi stated there was no possibility of Pavelić being extradited. Laval cynically told a French journalist “off-the-record” that the French press should stop going on about the assassinations in Marseille because France would never go to war to defend the honor of a weak country like Yugoslavia.
The film record of King Alexander I’s assassination remains one of the most notable pieces of newsreel in existence, alongside the film of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia’s coronation, the funerals of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Kaiser Franz Joseph I of Austria, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A 20th Century Fox newsreel presented by Graham McNamee was manipulated in order to give the audience the impression that the assassination had been captured on film. Three identical gunshot sounds were added to the film afterwards, when in reality Chernozemski fired his handgun over ten times, killing or wounding a total of 15 people. A straw hat is shown on the ground, as if it belonged to the assassin, while in reality it did not. A Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol with a 10-round magazine is shown as the assassination weapon, while the actual one had a 20-round magazine. The exact moment of assassination was never filmed. Just hours later, Chernozemski died of the injuries inflicted on him by the crowd in the chaos.
The following day, the body of King Alexander I was transported back to the port of Split in Croatia by the Yugoslav destroyer JRM Dubrovnik. After a huge funeral in Belgrade attended by about 500,000 people and many leading European statesmen, Alexander was interred in the Oplenac Church in Topola, which had been built by his father. As his son Peter II was still a minor, Alexander’s first cousin Prince Paul took the regency of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
A ballistic report on the bullets found in the car was made in 1935, but the results were not made available to the public until 1974. They revealed that Barthou was hit by an 8 mm Modèle 1892 revolver round commonly used in weapons carried by French police.