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Guernica – Dave BolingJust a few years before the Second World War the Germans practiced and perfected their use of aerial bombardment of the civilian population during the Spanish Civil War, when the fascist governments in Italy and Germany provided help to Franco’s rebels in overthrowing the government.

Picasso’s giant mural “Guernica” depicts the atrocity but it is true to say that even within Spain (at least in the south), there are many who are unaware of the horrific bombing raids that virtually annihilated the town of Guernica, the historic heart of Spain’s Basque country. The Basques had been granted autonomy within a Spanish state but it was no part of Franco’s plan to allow this to continue; it was in Guernica that generations of Basques had gathered around an ancient tree to debate the laws and elect their leaders and so Wolfram von Richthofen, commander of the aerial attacks on Spanish targets, chose Guernica for what was to become one of the bloodiest attacks on a civilian population in history. As Guernica embodied the Basque spirit and history, then Guernica had to be destroyed.

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