Thursday, April 26, 2007

Guernica/Gernika in Memory

Guernica/Gernika represents all violent attacks on primarily civilian targets -- that is why it's so important and lasting as a symbol. It was also a real incident (April 26, 1937) in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), a conflict that helped spark the Second World War. But it was not the first such incident. The German Condor Legion bombed the Basque town of Durango on March 31, April 2 and April 4, 1937, killing some three hundred people -- including at least fourteen nuns and a priest giving communion.

At Guernica, perhaps another two hundred civilians were killed. Most of the townspeople were able to run for their lives after the first bombs fell, though Guernica itself burned. In 2007, some 200 survivors of that attack still live and remember.

After Durango and Guernica, air forces on all sides ramped up the scale and scope of such attacks, so that by 1945, the world experienced hundreds of such mass atrocities ranging from the London Blitz to attacks on Warsaw and Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Civilians killed en masse. It's happening today in Mogadishu and around the world, and it is perpetuated by suicide bombers and Stealth bombers alike.

"Guernica was not bombed by my air force . . . it was destroyed with fire and gasoline by the Basques themselves." Generalissimo Francisco Franco, May 5, 1937.

"Guernica can offer nothing of interest to anyone concerned with its past, nor is ther any value in discussing what happened then with anyone here." Gervasio Guezurago, mayor of Guernica under fascist dictatorship, 1974.


Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts, Guernica: The Crucible of World War II (1975).

Paul Haven, "70 Years Later, Guernica Holds Secrets" (Associated Press, April 22, 2007).

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