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Sal Williams

Gernika, yesterday and today

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Hello Folks,

On our recent trip to Spain, I just had to see the famous town of Gernika (thats how they write it). Despite it being a 6 hour drive from Barcelona it just had to be done! A little background for those who might not be aware of its signifigance to our hobby:

Gernika was a small Bask town in the very north of Spain.On the 26th of April 1937 at 4:30 in the afternoon the German Luftwaffe bombed the town to rubble at the behest of Franco (the German spanish cross was awarded to the German military men who participated in this and other actions in Spain). This was considered the first use of urban bombing in modern warfare. This action was more of a test of the damage possible to inflict with aeriel bombing than it was a specifically strategic target. The German military sent to battle in Spain (for what is considered to be the Nazi testing grounds for WWII) was called the Condor Legion, led by Lieutenant Wolfram von Richtofen. If that name seems familiar to you it probably is, he was cousin to WWI flying ace Manfred von Richtofen also known as The Red Baron! You can probably see why it was a must see for me. I will start you off with a map of the current rebuilt city (VERY little was left after the Luftwaffe bombing was over).

Edited by Sal Williams

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To contrast that map take a look at this one of the old town of Gernika. The brownish colored buildings are all that survived the bombing.

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So we drove in from Bilbao (a nearby seaside town where we were staying) and began to explore. The sense of history was overwhelming. The people were VERY friendly and speak Bask which sounds nothing like Spanish and uses X's in its written form ALL the time! Here is a View of gernika today.

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Here is a strange thing I noticed while in Bask country, the signs all use this lettering. I mean about 95% of them!

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Here is Sam in front of a tile version of Pablo Picasso's famous Guernica painting (painted in 1937 in protest of the fascists). Gernika reffers to itself as "the town of peace" now.

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I learned some new things on this little jaunt. it turns out that for centuries Gernika, though very small, has been extremely inportant in the Bask culture. It is and always has been the seat of government for them. In ancient times the Bask would gather at a sacred oak tree and the leaders would be elected and take thier oaths of office under its boughs. It is speculated that this is why Gernika was chosen for destruction. To demoralize the Republican government as strong resistance to the fascists came from the north and bask in particular. Here is the building that houses the Bask seat of government even today.

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In another room is this beautiful stained glass ceiling with the tree and the old leaders gathering under it.

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Here we have a pic of the actuall old tree which is no longer alive. The tree that replaced it was a seedling from that tree and was the meeting place at the time of the gernika bombing. It was undamaged by the attack ironically enough.

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Here is the current tree. The tree that survived the bombing died recently but was again replaced by a seedling from THAT tree.

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Well at this point we headed out armed with our trusty map to find what few remnants of old Gernika survived the Nazi bombardment. The He111's sure took thier toll! I will post pics of what I found left tomorrow.

Best, Sal

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Those "new" buildings sure LOOK old!

I am surprised that the Franco regime-- around until 1975, after all-- would have rebuilt or allowed rebuilding.

Good thing Sam lets you tag along so we can all learn new things! tongue.gif

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Actually Rick the reason the "new" buildings look old is because directly after reducing the town the Franco regime rebuilt the city for use of the Astra gun factory I understand. More coming about Astra smile.gif

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Bob, I had the best Paella I had while in Spain there! You are right the food up there is top notch!!!

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Ok, here we go....

We hunted what remained that was pre 1937. We found this old church was still standing (which was interesting because most churches were torn down by the socialist republican side, so it survived destruction by both sides somehow???). Here it is in a close up from the first map I posted. Number 18

Edited by Sal Williams

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I asked around about seeing battle damage but there was little to see as most everything was destroyed completely. The church was one of the few spots you could see scars I was told. I think this is schrapnel damage. Looked like it on close onspestion.

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and this building (I don't know what it was) survived and was either untouched or redone at some piont.. Absolutely no signs of damage!

Edited by Sal Williams

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Here it is on the map. Not the marked one but the left hand building of the 2 small square ones

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Here was the most obvoiusly damaged thing we found. One of 2 columns that goes into a courtyard park thingy.

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That was located at the entrance to the green area. It doesn't even show up on the map, but the kind folks at the tourist office guided me to it.

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