This article was translated by John R. Bopp
As every year, we’ve written a lengthy article on the commemoration of the Bombing of Guernica, which took place on today’s date in 1937. In that article, we recognized all those, from all over the world, who helped those democratic Basques in their fight against totalitarianism.
But we can’t let slip this opportunity to bring out more documents for those people interested in this key event in modern Basque (and world) history.
We’ve found a very interesting document that we’d like to share with all of you who’d like to go deeper into the web of lies that the fascist, their friends, and their heirs have (and still do) vomited up from that very day until today regarding the Bombing of Guernica.
This is a work written by Javier Ortiz Echagüe, and it’s titled “‘This Isn’t Guernica…’: Press Photographs of the Destruction of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War”. It discusses the fight between the truth and the lies that are told about what happened in Guernica in the months following the bombing.
Despite its title, the work devotes a good part of its length to discussing how the fascists tried to create a web of lies in order to not appear to the world as they were: guilty of a war crime. Meanwhile, on the other hand, the Basque Government and some journalists who witnessed the event explained the tragedy that had occurred to the world.
The study is full of information collected by the world media. Of them all, we’ve selected a photographic composition published by the magazine Volks Illustrierte, nº 22, dated June 2, 1937. It is the work of German painter, graphic artist, photomontage artist, and scenographer John Heartfield.
The image is that of a woman with her son in her arms, a house in ruins behind them, and the words of Basque President Agirre to the world, as published by Regards on May 6, 1937, as a response to the lies told about Guernica by the fascist, and retold in friendly media around the world:
“Devant Dieu et devant l’Histoire qui doit tous nous juger, j’affirme que pendant trois heures et demie les avions allemands bombardèrent avec un acharnement sans précédent la population civile sans défense de la ville historique de Gernika, la réduisant en cendres, poursuivant par le feu des mitrailleuses des femmes et des enfants, qui ont péri en grand nombre, les autres fuyant, fous de terreur”.
“Before God and History, which will eventually judge us all, I hereby state that for three and a half hours German planes bombed the defenceless civilian population of Gernika with unprecedented viciousness. They reduced the town to ashes and machine-gunned women and children, many of whom were killed, while the rest fled in terror”.
Noel Monks, correspondent for the Daily Express who was an eyewitness to the Bombing of Guernica, said, as we reported in an earlier article:
“I was back in the blackened town at dawn. The flames had died, but the ruins were smoldering. I saw more than eight hundred bodies. An estimated 300 more I couldn’t see, because they weren’t bodies: they were just hands, legs, arms, heads, bits of flesh. Many bodies had bullet wounds: airplane machine-gun bullets”.
That is the only truth.
In this work, we can also find the memories of a then very young Jorge Oteiza, who wrote about his feelings when he heard from Buenos Aires:
“That night, I found myself crying in the small plaza where the Tree of Gernika sapling is, as other patriots were arriving. In those same days, there was the announcement of a large concentration of Nazi Germans at Luna Park. I think, as I was told, that I was crazy, and I proposed several different operations as a Basque response, one of which, to my chagrin, was of a thoroughly bellicose nature.”
On the other hand, as an example, we have the official declaration of the rebel command at Salamanca, which, on April 28, stated:
“There is no German or foreign air force in the Nation of Spain. There is the Spanish Air Force, the noble and heroic Spanish Air Force, which is constantly fighting red planes which are Russian and French and flown by foreign aviators.”
Or what Victor de la Serna published in ABC on May 19:
“It is the separatists who set fire to Guernica, with the perverse morbidity of a heretic”.
That is a lie that continues to our day. And other, more subtle, but equally cruel and miserable: since we can’t deny the evidence of the bombing, we’ll minimize its consequences, by assuring that it wasn’t a tragedy, that there was very little damage, and that a tiny scruffle has been magnified by the Republicans as propaganda.
The Investigation “‘This is not Guernica…’ Press photographs of the Destruction of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War”
By Javier Ortiz Echagüe
Can be read in volume 16 of the magazine Estudios sobre el Mensaje Periodístico