The Bombing of Guernica is undoubtedly one of the most unprovoked and brutal examples of war crimes during the World War II. A bustling and happy town and its people were caught unawares and died without a chance to know why.
Basque country is a region around north central Spain.The Basque people are the original inhabitants of the region. Guernica, also known as Gernika and once the capital of the region, is located in the Basque country and the town represents the spiritual capital of the Basque people and Basque liberty movement. An old oak tree in Guernica became an everlasting symbol of freedom struggle of Basque people from centuries. Guernica today is a center of historical significance and represents Basque nationalism, culture and also stands as a symbol of peace.
Prelude to Bombing of Guernica
On April 26, 1937, Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany and Aviazione Legionaria of Fascist Italy bombed Guernica. During the time of the Spanish war, a great power struggle was unfolding among the various forces vying for control in Spain. Likewise, Basque people as a distinct ethnic group, did seek autonomy to complete freedom from Spain. Therefore, General Francisco Franco had utter dislike for the Basque people and the bombing of Guernica was his way of teaching lessons to the Basque separatist. Franco had total support of Hitler and Mussolini in the Spanish Civil War.
The desire to crush the Basque people was the only reason for bombing since Guernica was not a town of any strategic or military significance. Guernica neither had air defense nor was a town that had needed any significant garrison to defend itself from attack from forces within Spain. Guernica became a target due to the fact that it was vulnerable lame duck.
Guernica was famous for its Monday Market. In fact the famous sentence,’lunes gerniqués, golperik ez’ says ‘no work will happen” on Monday due to the Monday market. The Basque people from neighboring areas also poured into the Guernica’s Monday market. People came for purchase, sale, entertainment and fine food offered in various eateries. Whereas the town had a population of around 7000 inhabitants the number of people grew two-fold during these Monday markets. Therefore, to kill as many Basque people as possible the Monday market became the day for bombing.
Bombing Of Guernica
The Condor legion of the German fleet that bombed Gurnecia comprised mainly of transport planes and few Dorner DO 17 E1 specialized in bombing raids. The raids also came in many waves. Initial raid dropped thirty-six 50 kg bombs targeting bridges and buildings including a church that was a headquarter of the Republican Left party. The devastating raid that decimated civilian came in the second wave by another fleet of 29 planes. Furthermore, incendiary bombs for quick spread of fire were reportedly used for more casualties.
Assessment Of Causalities
The number of civilian fatalities has been a subject of debate. The casualty range from twelve people in the least to a maximum of 5000. However, a general approximate consensus is 1500 death and 1000 injured. There have been a debate whether the Monday market had been functional on the bombing day. It was a normal market day as always is not in doubt anymore.
Aftermath Of Guernica Bombing
The unprovoked brutal and barbaric murder of unarmed civilians met with international outrage and condemnation. The accusation that the Germans used the Guernica’s population as guinea pigs to experiment with new bombs and provide target practice to pilots also gained notoriety. Germans and the Italians air forces remained unapologetic on one of the most horrendous crime on humanity.
The only positive outcome of this dark episode is the painting of Pablo Picasso in 1937 named “Guernica”. It is considered to be one of the finest pieces of art and moving testimony of the horrors and destruction of war.”Guernica” is on display in Madrid today to an admiring crowd and art connoisseurs.