On Tuesday, April 5, during an online speech before the Congress of Deputies, the President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky compared the consequences of the war in his country with the bombing Guernica (Biscay) in April 1937. It was an unfortunate comparison. The collateral damage from aerial bombardments, which happens all the time, has nothing to do with the outright killing of civilians in an area dominated by a military force, in this case the Russian army.
Zelensky’s allusion shows, above all, the persistence of stories based on propaganda and disinformation, which in the case of Spain have been present since the first months of the civil war. Behind delusions like alleged massacre at the bullring in Badajoz or naval bombardment of civilians fleeing Malaga. There are even recent inventions, as in the case of “piece experiment“on the Castellon front.
Some topics were kept far beyond reason, and events of limited importance were highlighted, while others of more importance were ignored. The German-Italian bombing of Guernica, for example, was the subject of much attention since it took place in April 1937, to the extent that Pablo Picasso He named a painting that the Republican government commissioned about the Civil War after that Biscay town, but the account of what happened was long rife with lies and exaggeration on both sides.
This story has already been largely demystified, and virtually everyone agrees that the death toll has not reached 200 (126 according to Jesús Salas Larrasabal, although the first to publish the exact figure was Vicente Talon in 1970). On the contrary, few have heard of massacre by the police in Guadalajara prison December 6, 1936, where 282 right-wing prisoners were killed within a few hours. Or the murder on August 12, 1936 in Pozo del Tio Raimundo (Madrid) of 193 prisoners who were brought by train from Jaén, including Bishop Don Manuel Basulto, who died forgiving his killers. The last of the CNT gunned down their victims with machine guns in front of the infamous 2,000-strong crowd watching the “show.” The same can be said about the murder of 156 prisoners interned on the prison ship “Alfonso Perez” (Santander, December 27, 1936), or about the murder Republican bombing of Cabra (Cordoba), which resulted in the death of 109 civilians on November 7, 1938, almost the same as in Guernica a year and a half ago. The greatest genocide of the war – about five thousand murders in Paracuellos del Jarama (Madrid) in November 1936 – ignored by many, despite the obvious parallelism with the current massacres in Ukraine, in particular in Bucha.
Some British authors, undeservedly famous for the worldwide spread of the English language, make up for the lack of research repetition of false topics over 80 years old, according to the usual BBC bungling. In 2004, a certain Francis Corby, none other than from the Imperial War Museum, described what happened in Guernica in this way.
“For more than three hours, Heinkel He 111 bombers, escorted by fighters that were strafing the ground, dropped 45,000 kg of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Guernica, systematically reducing it to rubble. More than 1,600 civilians died, a third of the population, and about 900 were injured.
This paragraph is worth going to. Guinness: none of the data is correct. He ignores the participation of Italian bombers; the aircraft most commonly used were Junkers 52 trimotors, a civilian passenger transport aircraft capable of dropping bombs; dozens of intervening devices could not bomb for more than three hours, not even half; the dead did not reach even a tenth, and the bombing destroyed not 70 percent of the buildings, but less than half. It was the subsequent fires that destroyed most of the city, and not the direct action of the bombs. The translation is also imperfect: “high-explosive” bombs are innovative in our language.
Things haven’t changed much. movie Guernica, directed by Koldo Serra in 2016, this is complete nonsense. After the popular front government’s misconception of democracy, the film shows a military situation that has nothing to do with reality. It features a caricature of the Chief of Staff of the Condor Legion von Richthofen; it includes solemn balls – strict etiquette! – for correspondents in Bilbao in April 1937; invent one Czech Soviet-communist in Guernica; multi-engined horizontal bombers strafe when the horizontal bombers of the Condor Legion had to drop their bombs at an altitude of more than a thousand meters so that the belt that served as insurance could turn around; Conference calling with New York is instant! and the action culminates in a cheesy video game aesthetic. It is difficult to explain such nonsense, although an excess of Chakoli is not ruled out.
What happened was manipulated by both sides from the first minutes. The first to do this was the British journalist George L. Steer, correspondent once London, who in 1938 published Guernica tree, a very sectarian story and full of errors. It began with the fact that the shelling took place on a market day, as if it were an ordinary day in a peaceful village, when the front was about 15 km away, retreating, and the military command forbade the arrival of people with food to the market. .
Popular Front government published a figure of 1645 dead, which is more than ten times higher than the real figure. On the other hand, the 126 dead were not direct victims of the bombs, but rather the product of the collapse of two poorly constructed shelters: Asilo Calzada and Santa Maria. In short, the city was located next to the bridge – the Renteria Bridge, which was the last in front of the sea and an obligatory passage for the heavy and motorized equipment of the retreating troops. Due to shortcomings in the guidance of aircraft, most of the bombs fell on the city, which, by the way, housed three weapons factories: Unset (Pistols Astra), Guernica Workshops (air bombs, fuses and warheads for artillery and anti-submarine depth charges) and Beistegi (machine guns).
On the other hand, taking care to maintain the support of German aviation, which he considered necessary, frank he supported attributing the destruction of the city of Biscay to the action of dynamite, which was false. Many years passed before this lie began to be corrected. In July 1949 (No. 114, pp. 35–44) magazine article army – written shortly before his death by the general Jose Martinez Esparzawitness of the occupation of the city – already admitted that aviation was in operation, but an unofficial correction occurred in 1971, in a monograph Biscay Military historical service on the basis of reliable information. A year earlier, in September 1970, the magazine army (No. 368, p. 74) has already published a laudatory review of the book. Guernica is on fire Vicente Talon, which began as follows: “On April 26, 1937, the city of Guernica was destroyed by aircraft of the Condor Legion.” The other side, not to mention some pseudo-historians, took longer to correct the original lies, both the Basque nationalists and the bankrupt George Steer. Back in 1984, I heard a Basque nationalist in Guernica itself speak of four thousand deaths.
Some of the core data has been ignored or changed. Steer, for example, did not mention the involvement of Italian aircraft. The journalist, a conservative, wanted to encourage British rearmament in the face of the threat that Nazi Germany was beginning to pose, and limited the responsibility for what happened to German aircraft, whose power could be used against Britain, in which he was right.
The most famous myth was the suggestion that the bombing intended to damage the symbol of Basque self-rule, for the fact that in Guernica there is the House of Assembly, where historically the kings of Castile swore allegiance to the privileges of Biscay. Since the building was located on the outskirts of the city, it was not damaged, and the commander of the Northern Army, General Emilio Mola, ordered to protect it. The first to do so were the Tetuan regulars, who were soon replaced by a company of requetes from Navarre under the command of Captain Jaime del Burgo.
Of course, the forces that occupied the village did not kill a single civilian. Knowing the consequences of the bombing, General Franco forbade the Italian and German aviation to carry out such actions. Thus, Ukraine is not at all like Guernica.