70th Anniversary of the Bombing of Gernika

I wrote this on my Basque site, but feel it is important enough to post here as well.

Today, April 26, marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika. Occuring during the Spanish Civil War, the civilian town of Gernika was bombed on a Monday, traditionally a market day for the village, by the German Luftwaffe “Condor Legion” as well as Italian forces, working with Franco’s army. At the time, the Basque government claimed that over 1600 people died in the attacks. More recent estimates put the figure between 250 and 300.

Gernika is most famous as being the center of Basque democracy. The Tree of Gernika is famous as the spot that local Basque law makers would gather from all over the province and decide on laws. The kings of Spain would pledge, under the Tree of Gernika, to protect Basque liberties and old laws, or fueros. These practices were inspirations to the founding fathers of both France and the United States, in particular John Adams.

The bombing of Gernika inspired Picasso to paint one of his most famous paintings, Guernica. Originally made for the World’s Fair hosted by Paris, the piece now resides in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. A reproduction of the painting hangs in the United Nations to remind the delegates there of the horrors of war.

Gernika was not the only Basque city bombed in this way. Earlier in the same day, the town of Gerrikaitz was also bombed. Gerrikaitz is at the crossroads between Gernika, Durango, and Lekeitio. It is also my dad’s home town. About one month earlier, on March 31, the town of Durango had been bombed. Between 350 and 500 people were killed in those attacks.

For more information about the bombing, see this Wikipedia article. It is in there that I first read about the bombing of Gerrikaitz. I would like to know more about it. If anyone has more information about that attack, please let me know.

EDIT: Here is an article in the LA Times about the bombing of Gernika by Mark Kurlansky, author of The Basque History of the World. And here is an article about how Gernika is marking the anniversary. Finally, EiTB24, the Basque media site, has a multimedia presentation on the bombing.

EDIT number 2: This article has some photographs and some other interesting information. In particular, it quotes Wolfram von Richthofen, commander of the Condor Legion: “Guernica, city with 5,000 residents, has been literally razed to the ground. Bomb craters can be seen in the streets. Simply wonderful.”

EDIT number 3: Astero has a nice article, including a PDF outline, on the bombing.

3 thoughts on “70th Anniversary of the Bombing of Gernika”

  1. I was totally unaware of the bombing of Gernika, and only know (what little I know) through the existence of Picasso’s painting “Guernica.” With all the strife in the world today, from U.S. occupation of Iraq to genocide in Darfur to apartheid in Palestine to the war in Sri Lanka, it’s easy to forget or even to ignore important events such as this. But it’s just this kind of refusal to remember or to pay attention that allows events like this to continue, events which are about MUCH more than several hundred, or several thousand, people dying, they are about fascism and geo-politics and dominance and dehumanization and greed. Thanks for your post. I want to learn more about this, too.

  2. One thing I might point out: When the Bush administration was arguing its case for the war in Iraq to the UN, they requested (and were granted) that the reproduction of Guernica in the UN be covered. They didn’t want that reminder of the horrors of war to be so visible when they were arguing for war.

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