From World War I Document Archive
Born on Oct. 4th 1858 in the village Sinaæ, district of Lika, Croatia. His father Mathias Sarcotiæ (28.9.1828 - 8.3.1891) had been first lieutenant in the Otoæaner Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment Nr.2. The name of his mother is unknown. In Nov. 1898 he married Gisela von Bartoloviæ de Teyne (14.IV.1878 - 28.III.1924). The couple had one son, Erwin von Sarkotiæ. Pre war career: Like his father he attended ground school in Otocaæ. Afterwards he finished four classes of Gymnasium (high school) in Zengg (Senj, Croatia). As descendant of a "Grenzerfamilie" (border dwelling family i.e. a family, who settled at the "Militaergrenze" - military boundary, which was erected in the 16th century by the Habsburgs against the Turks. The males mostly had to serve as soldiers.) he was chosen for a military career. From 1874 to 1876 he studied at the Militaerkollegium St.Poelten (Austria) and in 1876 he entered the famous Military Academie in Wiener Neustadt (Austria). After three years he successfully passed his exams. On April 24th 1879 he was admitted as second lieutenant to Infantry Regiment Nr. 16. After one owed year of company duty, he served as aide-de-camp of a batallion in Trebinje from 1880 to 1882. His first belligerent deployment took place in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1882. He proved to be a good soldier in several actions. After the campain he attended War Academy and was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant in the Infantry Regiment Nr 74 in Koeniggraetz (Hradec Kralove, Czech Rep.) on Nov. 1st 1884. In 1886 Sarcotiæ became officer of General Staff of 1st Mountain Brigade in Mostar. After a short while he was posted to the 40th Infantry Brigade in Vienna, where he served until 1888. The extent of his application to his studies and development of expertise reached from instructor of military police to officer in geographical and intelligence department. In his capacity as intelligence officer he travelled to Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. In Kasan, Russia, where he stayed from April 1891 until May 1892, he learned Russian and gathered considerable news about the Russian army. 1892 - May 1894 he served as a teacher of the Russian language at the War School; 1894 till July 1895 commander of 1st company of Infantry Regiment Nr. 66 in Woellersdorf, Lower Austria; 1895 - 1898 Chief of General Staff of 7th Infantry Division in Esseg (Osijek, Rep. of Serbia ); 1898 promotion to Lieutenant Colonel; around of the turn of the century Commander of a batallion of Infantry Regiment Nr.91 in Prague; in 1901 Chief of General Staff of the Naval Port Pola, (Pula, Rep. of Croatia) and promotion to the rank of Colonel; 1903 Chief of XIIth Army Corps in Hermannstadt ( now: Sibiu, Roumania ), 1905 award with the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Iron Crown; 1907 Commander in Chief of 5th Infantry Brigade in Linz, Upper Austria and promoted to Major General; because of differences of opinion with his superior, Lieutenant-General Gluecksmann, he tried to get another command and was appointed Commander in Chief of 88th Landesschuetzenbrigade in Bozen ( Bolzano, Italy), 1909 raised to nobility, March 1910 Commander in Chief of 44th Landwehrinfanteriedivision; 1911 Lieutenant-General, 1912 succeding Lieutenant-General Svetozar Boroeviæ as Commander in Chief of k.k. Hungarian 42nd Landwehrinfanteriedivision ( named Domobranzen), which would distinguish itself in the coming war on both the Eastern and the Italian fronts; Nov. 1st 1917 General Colonel.
War time military service:
In the beginning of the war Sarkotiæ's 42nd Honved Infantry Division was part of the 5th Austrian army ( VIIIth Army Corps, Prague and XIII Army Corps, Agram), which took it's stand against Serbia. Personally Sarkotiæ took part in the crossing of the river Drina near Zvornik and Batar in August 1914 as well as in the fights around Krupanj, Bijela, Crkva and Loznica. Then he came down with dysentery and when cured, after the well-known setback of the Austrians, led his defeated troops out from Serbia . His time as Governor and Commanding General of Bosnia, Hercegovina and Dalmatia (BHD).
After the failure of the offensive against Serbia it was clear that the Commanding General and then Governor of BHD, Feldzeugmeister (General) Oskar von Potiorek, had to be dismissed. On Dec. 22nd 1914 Sarcotiæ was appointed successor and General of Infantry. From then on he had to deal with difficult political, legal, religious, bureuacratic, military and economic problems.
The political and ethnic situation in the country showed the same or similar features as that still current. Three groups were trying to come into play. The orthodox, believing Serbs, who had gained strength as an outcome of the Balkan wars, more or less discreetly were longing for a Great Serbia, to embrace all Serbs in BHD.
The Catholic Croatians, who were divided into one group, which wanted to join Serbia and another, which pleaded for a Yugoslavia as third power within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Muslims, the weakest party, were undecided and swung between both other parties.
"I'm holding office in the noon and learn from some files, that I'm sitting on a volcano but I don't care, with God's help I hope to avoid every outbreak of lava!", Sarcotiæ wrote on his first day in office. He intended to rule severely and rigidly, but rightly and impartially. In this field he was successful, but he never could solve the country's problems. During his term of office two outstanding events were happening. The conquest of the Lovæen massif with the following defeat of Montenegro and the Banjaluka Trial. From the first, Sarcotiæ's name of nobility is derived - he was the leader of the victorious campain. The Banjaluka Trial was held because the Austrians, being on the advance in Serbia, found extensive evidence of treason of Austrian citicens of Serbian nationality. Unfortunately these records had been lost during the retreat. 233 persons were accused of high treason, although the absence of the original documents caused considerable embarassment, seriousness of the accusations. The trial only ended in the beginning of the year 1917 with 17 death sentences; the other defendants were sentenced to prison terms of between two and twenty years. Emperor Karl I. finally pardoned all defendants.
Sarkotiæ endorsed the trial, wrote a book about it (Der Banjaluka-Prozess, Berlin 1932), but also criticised the deficiency of the proceedings and the pardoning of the death sentences.
When Entente troops were advancing, Sarkotiæ had to leave Sarajevo. On Nov.11th 1918 he got on the train to Agram (Zagreb, Croatia). After some incidents - he was threatened by armed guerillas - he finally reached Agram and was interned in military jail.
Life in Vienna: When his internment was over, Sarcotiæ went to Vienna, were he lived till the end of his life. In Vienna he was one of the leading figures of a group of Croatian, anti-Serbian, legitimate emigrés. In 1927 he became an Austrian citizen and got a pension by the Austrian state, unlike his Croatian collegue Boroeviæ. He always favored a Croatian state, separated from Serbia and had not been unhappy with the developments in Croatia in the year 1939. Sarcotiæ watched the first events of WWII with a good deal of interest. In the autumn of 1939, his longstanding stomach condition got worse. He died on Oct.16th 1939. The funeral took place on the Wiener Zentralfriedhof, where Sarkotiæ, together with his wife, now rests.
Der letzte Paladin des Reiches, GO Stefan Freiherr Sarkotiæ von Lovæen.; Bauer Ernst, Styria Verlag Graz, Wien, Koeln; 1988, ISBN 3-222-11782-9
Ein General im Zwielicht. Die Erinnerungen Edmund Glaises von Horstenau, Broucek, Peter; Böhlau Verlag 1980, ISBN 3-205-08740-2
Oesterreich-Ungarns letzter Krieg 1914-1918; ed. Oesterreichisches Bundesministerium fuer Heereswesen und vom Kriegsarchiv, Vienna 1229