Five years ago, on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Point de Grave, we wrote an article to remember what the members of the Gernika Battalion gave. Today, in 2020, on the anniversary of the first day of that battle, which stretched from April 15-17, 1945, we again want to pay homage to them, to remember them, and to thank them.
That group of Basque survivors of the war the Francoist uprising started, and of the persecution and the fight and Nazism, participated in that battle with the Ikurriña raised high.
They fought against the Nazis; they fought to defeat them; they fought for a Free France; but most of all, they fought for Euzkadi, the Basque Country, and the freedom of their homeland. They fought, convinced that that struggle in which they were participating, against fascism in Europe, was not going to stop in the Pyrenees. They were convinced that it was going to also going to finish off that other fascist European régime, the one led by the insurgent Franco.
Because, more than anything, they were fighting for their country. As Captain Martínez, a socialist, said in his speech before the battle:
“Gudaris, estamos lejos de nuestra tierra, combatiendo por Euzkadi en contra del fascismo. Gora Euzkadi Askatuta”,
(Soldiers, we are far from out land, fighting for the Basque Country against fascism. Long live the Free Basque Country),
Because of all that, on April 16, 1945, none of them could have imagined that that criminal régime led by Franco would continue for another thirty years, or that it would gain the support of the governments whose forced the gudaris had fought alongside.
It would be even harder for them to believe that after what historian Jean Claude Larrond explained, and after the words spoken by General de Gaulle to the Gernika Battalion, opening a window of hope that Franco would fall right after Mussolini and Hitler.
On Sunday, April 22, 1945, General de Gaulle landed at the Grayan airfield, accompanied by the Commander of the French Forces in the West, General de Larminat; he walked to the command post of Colonel de Milleret and then reviewed the troops; he stopped when he came to a Basque flag and gave it a long salute; soon after, he told Kepa Ordoki: “Commander, France shall never forget the efforts and sacrifices of the Basques for the liberation of our land.” Twelve war crosses were given to the Basque fighters.
None of that happened. Franco died in his bed, and tens of thousands of democratic and anti-totalitarian Basques had to flee to exile.
But their victory, and the struggle of all those people, were not in vain, so long as we keep their memory alive and honor them.
And this is our contribution to keeping their memory alive.
Agur eta Ohore
In 2015, we wrote a long article collecting references and interesting articles to help understand the commitment of those Basques to the fight against fascism in Europe.
Header photo: General de Gualle gives a military salute to the Ikurriña after the Battle of Point de Grave, April 1945