Wednesday, May 25

Franco before Putin: when the propaganda said that the bombing of Gernika was a ‘republican fire’

The name of Mariúpol will go down in the history of cities devastated by war just like Sarajevo or Gernika did. In the case of this last Basque city, on April 26, 1937 German and Italian planes destroyed it, consummating the first example of ‘total war’. The president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, referred to Gernika today during his telematic speech to the Congress of Deputies: “We are in April 2022, but it seems like April 1937”. The Francoist press did not hesitate then to follow the strategy that the media related to Putin now copy regarding the invasion of Ukraine.

EiTB journalist Dani Álvarez has reproduced press clippings from the time on his Twitter profile. Some, related to Franco: “There was no bombing of Guernica and there was destruction by the reds,” said a headline in La Nueva España with the subheading ‘Truth Triumphs’; others, telling what really happened, how they did The Timesfrom London and New York Times. The telegram that journalist George Steer sent to The New York Times described the German bomb casings (with military symbols and the inscription Rheindorf 1936), as well as the use of an incendiary substance called ‘thermite’ that caused a wave of permanent fire during several days in the city.

In 2010, a work by Javier Ortiz Echagüe compiled texts and press clippings with the official version in a work for the Complutense University [consultar aquí en PDF]. That study cites how Víctor de la Serna, for example, from the ABC newspaper in Seville, claimed: “it is the separatists who have set fire to Guernica, with a lazy, sacrilegious perversity.”

The practice of blaming the victims of the destruction was common on Franco’s coup side during the Civil War and specifically during the so-called ‘Battle of the North’ and in the cases of the fighting in Irún, Eibar or the bombing of Durango. , prior to Gernika.

In the crosshairs of fascist propaganda, Lehendakari José Antonio Aguirre was also: “Aguirre lies! vile lies! […] There is no German or foreign aviation in national Spain. There is Spanish aviation. Noble and heroic Spanish aviation, which constantly fights with red planes that are Russian and French and driven by foreign aviators”, could be read in the Heraldo de Aragón on April 28, 1937.

Vox considers the official version of the bombing “propaganda”

Along these same lines, this Tuesday in April 2022, Hermann Tertsch, an MEP from the far-right formation Vox, stated on his Twitter profile: “Zelenski, born in the USSR, is not to blame for not knowing that the iconography of Guernica is Pure war propaganda. Nor that in Guernica they died less than in an attack on any town in the Ukraine. He knows about the civil war according to Stalin and our schools”.

Tertsch also accepts the figures on victims of Gernika that Luis Felipe Utrera-Molina, a lawyer for the Franco family and son of José Utrera Molina, Minister and Secretary General of the Movement in the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, has published on Twitter.

As he recalls Gernika Peace Museum, during the bombardment “a minimum of 31 tons of bombs” were dropped. Authorities recorded 1,654 fatalities. The mayor of Gernika, Jose Labauria, stated that more than a thousand people had lost their lives, including 450 in the Andra Mari street shelter. Father Eusebio Arronategi, who, like Labauria, was in Gernika during the bombardment and in the days that followed, collaborating in the work of rescuing and identifying the bodies, said that he saw “thousands of his fellow citizens suffocated, dead and wounded.”

“The urban center of the town (…) was completely destroyed. 85.22% of the buildings -a total of 271- were totally destroyed and the rest partially affected. The incendiary bombs caused a fire that could not be put out for several days. In line with the concept of terror bombing, the weapons factories and the Errenteria bridge, the only strategic objectives of the town, were not bombed”, adds this institution.