And there it is. Small, almost tiny even. It is hard to imagine that a bullet from this gun could kill anyone. I am standing in front of the pistol Gavrilo Princip used to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand 103 years ago. As part of the exhibition at the House of European History, it is kept safe behind glass on a plastic stick, showing it standing up as one might hold it.
As I look at I am overwhelmed. The entire suffering of a century is contained in that one insignificant object. The one shot it fired executed millions, levelled cities, ripped apart the world. I think of all people who suffered because of it in trenches, in camps, in prisons, but also in normal homes of their own or of another. Of the countless lives scarred by combat, by rape, by hunger, by dozens upon dozens of different ways just because of this one gun.
Tears well up in my eyes and my throat swells as the thought reaches me that the daunting and massive shadow of this terror is just a fragment of the actual misery which that one weapon brought about.
I take a deep breath. I look away. I take another. I take a step. Another. I have myself under control again. I remind myself, as an educated person, that there were broader causes to the war, that there were numerous places where tensions were present, that what happened ten, twenty, forty, eighty years after cannot be reduced to that one bullet, even that a lot of what we celebrate today would not exist if history would have taken a different turn. Still, what if Gavrilo Princip had not fired that gun?