This article was translated by John R. Bopp
The City of Durango has decided to bring action against the 46 Italian aviators who took part in the bombings that affected this town in March and April 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, causing more than 300 deaths, for war crimes.
The City is coming forward on its own, as a wronged party, for the bombing perpetrated by the Italian army, and joins the suit presented by the Italian anti-fascist association Altra Italia for the Italian bombings of Barcelona between 1937 and 1939, which have opened the door to the first open investigation in Spain for war crimes during the Spanish Civil War.
Spanish and Italian media are wondering why this decision has been made, hinting in reports that seem more like op ed pieces that the Spanish Civil War was a confrontation in which all were guilty, which is not at all true. The Spanish Civil War was a consequence of the actions and decisions of the started and participated in the coup. And in that war, as in all, each person is responsible for his own actions.
Italy, curiously, has a very weak memory of its fascist past. Like Spain, quite honestly. This was shown when a minister of the Italian government, in 2014, tweeted a fascist aviator her congratulations for turning 100 years old, saying “warmest wishes to the highly decorated aviator”. We can’t imagine a German minister congratulating a Luftwaffe aviator doing the same with a pilot who’s proudly showing off his Iron Cross, given to him by the Nazi government.
It is not all of Italy, nor the Italians of today, who are responsible for those criminally barbaric acts the Italian military carried out. It’s the responsibility of those who carried them out, and by inheritance, of the Italian State. This is due in large part to the fact that many elements of the Italian fascist government continued in their posts after the military defeat. Much like the “Spanish Transition”, where everything changed in order for the same people who had plundered, exploited, and dominated Spain for the previous 40 years to stay in power.
Read Lorenzo Vita’s article in the Italian daily Il Giornale, as it will explain how many similarities there are, in this too, between Italy and Spain, and how those responsible for the Italian fascist adventure in the Spanish Civil War, or those who practiced chemical warfare in the “colonial adventures” in Italian Ethiopia, need not answer for their crimes, even 80 years later. The only thing the journalist didn’t say was something along the lines of “who do they think they are to ask for our heroes in the Spanish Crusade to be punished”. It’s clear that this way of totalitarian thinking is not easy to eradicate.
The same thing happens when reading some statements in the Corriere della Sera by Bernardo Monti, the son of Italian pilot Luigi Monti, who participated in the bombing of Durango. He doesn’t understand why anyone is being held accountable now, and he speaks of the pride those pilots felt when remembering their actions in the Spanish Civil War. Surely many delinquents feel proud of their actions; they may even commit them convinced that their in the right to do so. We’re also sure that they’re convinced that anyone who disagrees with their ideas deserves little more than death or tyranny. It’s a very mafioso worldview. And they ask, after all, who’s who to judge what those young idealists did?
So what part of this suit does Mr. Bernardo Monti not understand? Well, so that, among other things, you won’t be able to say, with such insolence, what you did. Your father, who for you is a wonderful person, may be responsible for the deaths of many innocent and unarmed civilians. All they were guilty of was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We understand that that’s not particularly agreeable, but the memory of your father, or af any of those pilots who participated in that carnage, is worth no more than the memory of those who were murdered by Italian bombs and machine guns.
Your father returned from a war he volunteered for. He had children, raised them, and enjoyed a long life. Those murdered in Durango got none of that, and the survivors had to suffer through 40 years of a dictatorship that those aviators helped bring about, and which Italy, after the Second World War, the very democratic Italy, accepted as a legitimate government; all this to the great joy of Italian industry, which was welcomed by the régime with open arms, and many fascist Italians, who lived happily under the protection of Francoism.
Fortunately, in that same newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, Aldo Cazzullo makes some interesting reflections, though his inability to understand that suit is strange. No one tries to put centenarians in jail–it borders on the ridiculous. But he is looking for the acknowledgement and determination of responsibility.
Those fascist Italian volunteers have died without ever being officially called what they were: criminals. They will never hear it, but the descendents of their victims, when they hear it, will be able to close a chapter in their families’ histories; they, for so many years, were not able to mourn their dead in public.
It is necessary for it to be said. This is a clear case in which Truth, Justice, and Reparations are needed. That’s why we congratulate the City of Durango and its mayor for their decision.
Below, we’re including some reports published in Italy and Brazil on this matter, and a magnificent article by Mikel Ormazábal, who critically analyzes the situation.
Il Giornale – 19/7/2017 – Italia
Spagna, un comune denuncia 46 piloti italiani per crimini di guerra
Periodicamente, i suoi rappresentanti, di ogni estrazione politica e di ogni area geografica, utilizzano i ricordi della guerra per riaprire il dibattito sulle violenze e soprattutto per condannare il franchismo. Ci sono comuni che innalzano bandiere repubblicane invece di quella spagnola, movimenti politici che usano il franchismo come etichetta per definire la destra spagnola, e in molti non accettano ancora il fatto che ci sia stato Franco e dopo di lui la Monarchia, accusata di essere il frutto di un accordo con la dittatura spagnola.
Corriere della Sera 22/7/2017 – Italia
Il paese basco bombardato nel ‘37 fa causa agli aviatori italiani
Il 31 marzo 1937, alle 8 e mezza del mattino, i bombardieri Savoia-Marchetti attaccarono il villaggio basco di Durango. Non era un obiettivo militare; era una prova per terrorizzare i civili, in maggioranza ostili a Franco. Lanciarono bombe da cento chili, scesero al suolo per mitragliare uomini, donne, bambini. Era l’ora della messa. Il parroco del paese, Rafael Billalabeitia, cadde mentre pronunciava l’omelia. Nella chiesa di Santa Maria de Uribarri furono uccisi il curato Carlos Morilla e il suo sacrestano. Morirono anche undici monache del convento di Santa Rita. I corpi furono seppelliti in fretta e furia. Ma alle 4 e mezza del pomeriggio i bombardieri tornarono, a finire il lavoro. Le vittime furono oltre trecento.
Corriere della Sera 24/7/2017 – Italia
L’uomo che bombardò Durango «Paese centrato, danni enormi»
«Ma che senso ha la richiesta della sindaca di Durango, in Spagna?». Dalla sua campagna, a San Sepolcro, in Toscana, parla Bernardo Monti, figlio di Luigi Monti, uno dei piloti che il 31 marzo 1937 parteciparono ai bombardamenti degli S81, i Savoia-Marchetti, sul centro abitato di Durango, in territorio basco. La sindaca Aitziber Irigoras vuole fare causa agli aviatori italiani che provocarono distruzioni e, secondo una ricostruzione, ben 289 morti. Come ha raccontato l’altro giorno Aldo Cazzullo sul nostro giornale. «Di quei piloti — dice Bernardo Monti — non ne è rimasto in vita neppure uno, mio padre morì nel 1980, e allora contro chi si può far causa?».
El País – 22/7/2017 – España
Durango se querella contra Mussolini
El cruel bombardeo sobre Durango (Bizkaia), a cargo de l’Aviazione Legionara del ejército italiano el 31 de marzo de 1937, tiene nombres y apellidos. Fueron el teniente coronel Ferdinando Rafaelli, el capitán Gildo Simini, los tenientes Ezio Ceretta, Giulio Beccia y Cesare Villa, el mariscal Giulio Palombi o el aviador experto en armamento Dino Marconi. Todos ellos forman parte de una lista de 46 aviadores que ese día arrojaron 281 bombas (14.840 kilos de explosivos) sobre la población civil de Durango, causando la muerte de al menos 336 personas y desperfectos graves en 321 edificios. Aquel ataque fascista con bombas sobre la población civil se produjo casi un mes después del que sufrió la vecina Gernika por parte de la Legión Cóndor alemana.
Jornal do Brasil – 19/7/2017 – Brasil
Cidade espanhola denuncia italianos por bombardeios em 1937
A cidade de Durango, no País Basco, denunciou nesta terça-feira (18) 46 pilotos da Aeronáutica da Itália por crimes contra a humanidade em bombardeios realizados durante a Guerra Civil Espanhola (1936-1939). Os militares faziam parte da Aviação Legionária Italiana, expedição enviada pelo ditador fascista Benito Mussolini para dar apoio ao general Francisco Franco, que venceria o conflito e governaria a Espanha até sua morte, em 1975.