80 years ago: Guernica – a « breach of civilisation »

17. April 2017

The International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR) – Association of Antifascists and their member associations in more than 25 countries of Europe and Israel recall the 80th anniversary of the criminal bombing of the Basque city of Guernica on 26 April 1937 by the German “Legion Condor”.

This attack on an undefended city has been a « breach of civilization » in history. It was an attack by a foreign power against a legal government and was directed only against the civilian population. The attack also meant the destruction of the « holy city of the Basques », a symbol of their free-democratic traditions and their self-conscious culture. The result was devastating: 80% of all buildings were destroyed, among the roughly 6,000 inhabitants there were 1654 dead and 889 injured, according to the Basque government. For the Nazi Luftwaffe and Hermann Goering, the destruction of Guernica was « a complete success of the Luftwaffe ». Spain was thus a test field for the planned World War II.

Picasso’s painting « Guernica » – painted for the world exhibition in Paris in 1937 – immortalized the crime, the horror in the face of the devastations of the war. It is the visualized accuse of its victims. « Guernica » is a symbol of the rejection of war and its destructive force.

To this day, there are great lacks in historical and political reconstruction. Since the end of the Franco regime, politicians and anti-fascists have demanded in vain that the Picasso painting should be handed over to the city as a symbol of the recognition of suffering and reparation. Twenty years ago the former German President Roman Herzog wrote a letter of apology and reconciliation to the victims of Guernica and her descendants. However, this gesture remained. That was, however, more than all the Spanish governments are still ready to contend with the Basque city.

The refusal, which today’s post-franquist Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (PP) shows that the Spanish society has only worked down the Franco dictatorship. Honors of the regime are just as much a part of the agenda as the fact that the judgments of the injustice of justice continue. These include the « honorable remembrance » and the pensions that Germany had left to the war members of the “Legion Condor” and Franco’s « Blue Division », who were fighting against the Soviet Union on the side of the Fascist troops.

80 years after the bombing of Guernica, this act and the responsibility of the German « Legion Condor » are often forgotten. The FIR and its member federations – not only in Spain – are working to ensure that these events remain a permanent place in the collective memory of the peoples. They should be a permanent warning symbol against all violations of international law.