1937 aerial photograph of the smoldering ruins of Guernica
Today was the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the town of Guernica by German and Italian forces during the Spanish Civil War. The air raid, which created a firestorm that destroyed most of the Basque city and left hundreds of civilians dead, was part of efforts by Hitler and Mussolini to support fellow fascist dictator Generalísimo Francisco Franco.
Guernica was the cultural and political center of the Basques, and the attack on this city was one of the early horrors of what would become the Second World War. German and Italian troops, in essence, used Guernica as a training ground for new weapons, vehicles, and strategies.
Franco initially denied that any German or Italian planes were in Spain at the time of the attack, and claimed the Basques had destroyed the town in an effort to discredit the fascists. Guernica was one of the first cities ever to be destroyed by an aerial bombing campaign, foreshadowing the nightmares that would later befall such cities as Coventry, Dresden, and Hiroshima.
Left: Pablo Picasso's 1937 oil on canvas painting, "Guernica" - click for larger image
The destruction of Guernica was also the inspiration for the dark imagery in the painting Guernica, by Pablo Picasso. It was through seeing a print of Guernica that I first learned of the horrors of the attack on innocent Basque civilians.
So I am thinking of Guernica today, thinking both of the savagery of modern war and those who enthusiastically support the bombardment of civilian targets as a means of state-sponsored terror.
And I am thinking of old women and young children in the markets of Guernica that Monday morning, oblivious to the airborne annihilation that was about to roar in over the hills.