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Remember Guernica

by Londonbear Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 03:52:17 AM EST

Seventy years ago April 26 was market day in Guernica. The Spanish civil war was had started the year before but the historic capital of the Basque country was far from the front line. The market carried on as usual.

 The Nazis had sent their airforce to help out the Fascist forces under General Franco. Spain was to be their test bed for the theories of aerial warfare and blitzkrieg. The experiment needed a suitable subject. A city already damaged in the Civil War would not properly show the effects of an attack from the air. The WWI experience of a few crude bombs lobbed over the sides of airship gondolas on cities like London gave no proper information. Guernica, as yet untouched, would be the guinea pig.

At 4.30 in the afternoon the horror started.

From the diaries with small format edit ~ whataboutbob


The day after the Times published a report by George Steer which told of the raid.

Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition, was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent air raiders. The bombardment of this open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and a quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes consisting of three German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers and Heinkel fighters, did not cease unloading on the town bombs weighing from 1,000lb. downwards and, it is calculated, more than 3,000 two-pounder aluminum incendiary projectiles. The fighters, meanwhile, plunged low from above the centre of the town to machine-gun those of the civilian population who had taken refuge in the fields.

The whole of Guernica was soon in flames except the historic Casa de Juntas with its rich archives of the Basque race, where the ancient Basque Parliament used to sit. The famous oak of Guernica, the dried old stump of 600 years and the young new shoots of this century, was also untouched. Here the kings of Spain used to take the oath to respect the democratic rights (fueros) of Vizcaya and in return received a promise of allegiance as suzerains with the democratic title of Señor, not Rey Vizcaya. The noble parish church of Santa Maria was also undamaged except for the beautiful chapter house, which was struck by an incendiary bomb.

At 2 a.m. today when I visited the town the whole of it was a horrible sight, flaming from end to end. The reflection of the flames could be seen in the clouds of smoke above the mountains from 10 miles away. Throughout the night houses were falling until the streets became long heaps of red impenetrable debris.

The incendiaries had set off a firestorm, a terrible phenomenon in which the oxygen is sucked in to feed the inferno. In the next eight years it was to be seen from Coventry to the London docks to Hamburg and Dresden. The exact number of dead is unknown but usually put at about 1,650. Most of these were elderly, women and children.

In many senses it was a wakeup call for some of the European powers. Without it the Royal Air Force fleet would not have been upgraded in time to fight the Battle of Britain three years later.

The massacre also inspired Picasso to paint the great anti-war picture using the name of the city as its title. That was not to return to Spain until democracy was established. While the new constitution was ratified in 1978, the Museum of Modern Art in New York quibbled because of the constitutional monarchy that was established. A tapestry copy hangs in the United Nations building. Expressing opposition to war through the arts is a strong tradition and the Guernica Project has organised exhibitions and concerts to commemorate the event. The picture above is taken from their non-copyright gallery.

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We must remember, as was similarly done last year with Bob Higgins diary.
by Nomad on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 02:47:27 AM EST
The experiment needed a suitable subject. A city already damaged in the Civil War would not properly show the effects of an attack from the air. The WWI experience of a few crude bombs lobbed over the sides of airship gondolas on cities like London gave no proper information.

...and the colonial experience of rival imperial powers was not accessible. (Aerial terror bombing was first practised and perfected against colonial subjects, from Morocco to Iraq. Guernica was the first European application.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 04:27:21 AM EST
Guernica was the first European application

Which is, of course, the only one that matters.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 04:32:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bah, everyone knows that L'Afrique commence aux Pyrénées.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 04:43:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to say that a lot of those Spanish types are suspiciously brownish, so I wasn't sure how valid the experiment could be anyway, but I'm not familiar with the appearance of the Basques. They might have been pale enough to overcome that problem.

(Man, that twisted little evil voice in my head worries me sometimes.)

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 04:50:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
During Franco's time school texts included stereotypes about nations and peoples as if they were scientific truths. Everyone knows the Basque are burly, stubborn and like good food.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:15:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Repeat note to myself from the other day: must read up on the histories of the recent European dictatorships. Anyone got good book suggestions?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:17:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Read La Cucaracha on-line. (I should do it, too. To illustrate my ignorance, I just learnt that the communist saint who had several places and streets named for him over here, Máté Zalka, was a general of the International Brigades under the nom de guerre Paul Lukacs).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, you are an African-European...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 06:59:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to the Out-of-Africa theory...

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 07:26:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did Franco have any "inspiration" from history?
by das monde on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 06:14:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In many senses it was a wakeup call for some of the European powers.

In many others it wasn't.



"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 04:48:42 AM EST
Version B with the more well known lines:

More imagery on Guernica, aerial war and propaganda in the Spanish Civil War here.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:22:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The visionary who came up with the idea of massive aerial bombing was Giulio Douhet. The vision was flawed; he got about 90% of it wrong.

But old ideas die hard, unfortunately.

Good diary and Bob's before.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 04:52:08 AM EST
A strange read, your link. Old ideas die hard, indeed, even if the author sees half of that 90%. And he managed to write about Douhet without mentioning once that he joined the fascists.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:16:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When walking across Spain last year I was amazed at how little discussion there was on the Spanish civil war. There were still signs of the violence, but everyone seemed to pretend that nothing had happened. Fascism still is supported. While no one seemed ot be talking about the civil war, books on the Spanish civil war were selling.

Unfortunately we did not make it to Guernica.

I heard far more about the Spanish civil war in the People's (?) museum in Manchester than I had during the entire 2 1/2 months I was in Spain.

Here are a couple of photos from Spain.

The main street in the village of Samos.

A plaque on a church.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:07:38 PM EST
Fascism is still supported? You have no idea.

But it is not true that nobody talks about it. Just take a tour of escolar.net.

One of the reasons we [the Spanish ETers] don't write more about the political situation in Spain is, I think, disbelief and bewilderment as to how we're going to explain what's going on to foreigners.  

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 05:16:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Try me!

But tie it to ze nature an ze istorie of ze peoples.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 07:23:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Try you? For what crimes? I think a monsey trial and summary execution would be apropos here.

Now seriously, you believe in "the Nature of Peoples"?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 03:20:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe in "the ways" of some peoples--being different to "the ways" of other people--"foreigners".

So, thanks for reading my message and suggesting I should be killed!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 03:37:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, we're talking about the ways of the Spanish people according to Franco.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 04:26:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was talking about disbelief and bewilderment as to how we're going to explain what's going on to foreigners.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 05:08:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most observers are in disbelief of the Spanish Right Wing, and I amo not sure I can explain it to myself let alone to others.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 05:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do have a vision...of a ploughed field, maybe an olive tree or six, and...the mindset of "una fascista".

But my mind is full of strange fantasies that only touch realities tangentially...

...I can imagine a line going back to the spanish empire: who won, who lost, who got kicked over...and before that to the creation of espana out of regions and that must tie into christians vs. moors, and then there'd be a north/south split and issues relating to southern spain's relationships with north africa...

...so: the catholic church; regional issues; implicit or explicit ideas of superiority and inferiority;

....maybe that's all a fantasy.  Probably!

...and then there are those who have a "conservative" mindset.  But somehow fascists don't seem conservative to me.  Hitler's party was socialist.  They destroy that...that (eyes bulging!)...

....cough cough!  Here's a question (you don't need to answer it, but at least I end up with a question):

What do the Spanish Right Wing want?  And, more specifically, what do they want apart from lower taxes, less regulation, and all the other capitalist-business "right wing" guff?  What makes you tend to disbelief?  The lack of...rationality?  Or the clear...racism?  Or the clear....what?

Well, that's more than one question!

(And ze bit about ze nature and ze istories was just me trying to say "Please give me some fruity context!")

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 07:08:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you read my Spanish History primers?
What do the Spanish Right Wing want?  And, more specifically, what do they want apart from lower taxes, less regulation, and all the other capitalist-business "right wing" guff?  What makes you tend to disbelief?  The lack of...rationality?  Or the clear...racism?  Or the clear....what?
You are confusing the economic neoliberals with the neo-Francoist right and putting an Anglo-Saxon "right" template on them. Of course there is a lot of cross-pollination and the neo-Francoists have ties to old money which they have leveraged into new money. But I think at heart the Spanish Right just want to run Spain like their ranch [cortijo], because that's what they think Spain is, and it's about time those uppity Socialists stopped squatting.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 07:20:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, that was a bad joke on "try me". Sorry.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 05:30:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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