Survivors mark attack which inspired Picasso's Guernica

26th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

26 April 2007, GUERNICA - Exactly seventy years after the Luftwaffe reduced the Basque town to rubble, survivors will on Thursday mark of the anniversary of the attack which inspired Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

26 April 2007

GUERNICA - Exactly seventy years after the Luftwaffe reduced the Basque town to rubble, survivors will on Thursday mark of the anniversary of the attack which inspired Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

On 26 April 1937, the Condor Legion carpet bombed the small town, claiming 1,600 lives.
 
It was the first use of what came to be known as total war. Now civilians, not just soldiers, were in the front line, legitimate targets as much as armed combatants. It has come to be an integral part of war since. 

At the time of the attack, during the peak of the Spanish Civil War, Guernica was not on the front line.

Nationalist troops led by General Francisco Franco had been advancing towards Bilbao but faced strong resistance from the retreating Republican forces. 

In order to launch a devastating blow against the morale of the Republican side and cut important supply lines, Franco decided to use his Nazi allies to attack the civilian population.

Nazi Germany, like Fascist Italy, was officially not involved in the war and both had signed a Non-Intervention Pact.

But it was widely known the German and Italian forces had been arming Franco’s Nationalist troops.

The attack on a bustling market day turned into a scene of carnage, with makeshift shelters unable to hide people from the deadly load raining down.

The carpet bombing created a firestorm in which people inside the flimsy shelters were burned alive.

Only one per cent of the town’s buildings were said to have survived and most of them were on the outskirts.

Ricardo Arrien, now 80 who was ten at the time of the raids, recalled: “When I returned, the house had disappeared. Our photographs were burned, the brown coat I had got for Easter, my mother’s sewing machine, the marbles I had played with and some gold my father had hidden under the table. All gone.”

George Steer, a British journalist who worked for The Times, revealed to the world proof the Nazi regime had led the raids, breaking the Non-Intervention Pact.

The report brought international revulsion and widespread condemnation against Franco and the German Condor Legion which led the attack.

Britain, France and the United States condemned Franco’s Nationalist forces and Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

But Franco tried to claim the attack on Guernica never took place and was in fact Republican propaganda.

Later, in a effort to avoid condemnation by the international community and the Catholic Church, Franco suggested the town had been burnt on purpose as part of the Republicans’ slash and burn policy which had been repeated at nearby Irun by its retreating troops.  

But the damage had been done.

Picasso’s Guernica occupied pride of place in the Republican Spain pavilion at the Paris Exhibition of 1937, reminding the world what had happened just days before over the border in this small town in the Basque Country.

The anniversary of the bombings has led to fresh calls for Picasso’s masterwork to be brought to the Basque Country, but it appears unlikely it will happen.

Instead, as a good will gesture, the Spanish government are to send up to 30 sketches which Picasso used to paint Guernica which will go on show at the Guggenheim to mark the anniversary.

Thirty Spanish artists are also to mark the anniversary with a major exhibition in Guernica dedicated to the events which took place seventy years before. Among the artists are Juan Lui Geonaga and Iñaki Ruiz de Eguino.

An official homage will be paid to the victims of Guernica by the German government.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news 

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