Guernica: The Facts

Researching for his book on From Guernica to Vietnam, David Irving and his wife Pilar visited Guernica on May 11, 1967, and developed archival sources in the Basque city.



posted Thursday, January 29, 2009

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The Guernica controversy

[No contemporary photographs are known to exist of air raid damage in Guernica]

ON APRIL 26, 1937 a handful of planes of the "Condor Legion" carried out sporadic air attacks on the Basque town of Guernica, to deny an important river crossing to the retreating Republican (Communist) forces of the Spanish government. Ninety-eight people died.

The Condor Legion was a squadron of airforce "volunteers" provided by Hitler's Luftwaffe to the insurgents fighting under General Francisco Franco.

The air raid on Guernica became a centerpiece of communist and Left-wing propaganda against Hitler and Mussolini. True, reporters later found the town center devastated, but by whom? By the bombs, or after the raid by withdrawing Communists armed with dynamite by the regions' miners?

Reporting on a visit to Guernica, The Times Military Correspondent stated on May 5, 1937:

"That Guernica after a week's bombardment by aircraft and artillery should not have shown signs of fire supports the Nationalist contention that aircraft were not responsible for the burning of this town, which was bombed intermittently for a period of two hours. In Guernica few fragments of bombs have been recovered, the façades of buildings still standing are unmarked, and the few craters I inspected were larger than anything hitherto made by a bomb in Spain. From their position it is a fair inference that these craters were caused by exploding mines which were unscientifically laid to cut roads."

A further unidentified source echoed this: "What actually happened was that industrial Basques, miners from Asturias, experts in explosives, fired and dynamited the town to a prearranged plan. Two French artillery officers, veterans of World War One inspected the town when Franco's troops entered. What they saw was, they said, largely the result of arson and incendiarism. Petrol had been largely used, plus dynamite. Each alleged 'bomb' crater coincided with a sewer-manhole on the street, and where there had been no sewers there had been no 'bombs.'"

And Sir Arnold Wilson, Conservative Member of Parliament for Hitchin, Hertfordshire, wrote to The Observer after a visit to Guernica, on October 3, 1937: There was no evidence of damage from aerial bombardment, he said, but "most if not all of the damage was caused by wilful incendiarism and such is the verdict of the inhabitants." Sir Arnold was convinced that Guernica was a "put-up job," a Red atrocity-story calculated to recoil on Franco and the Germans.

Thousands were said to have been killed by the bombs.[See e.g., Storia Illustrata, Italy, Oct 1966: "1,654 died, 889 injured"]. This version of history - no surprises here - has been uncritically adopted ever since by conformist historians who carried out no original research. The Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, a Communist multi-millionaire, commemorated the raid in a famous propaganda painting titled "Guernica". It is on display in the United Nations building, and the original and sketches are displayed in a gallery in Madrid.

Closer examination reveals the Picasso painting to be a surrealist depiction of a bullfight; his first sketches for it are found in notebooks dating back over one year before the raid.

How many did actually die in Guernica?

THE conformists' narrative of events is open to question, as British historian David Irving found when he visited the town thirty years after the raid, researching for his book Guernica to Vietnam; he spoke with survivors and city officials, and checked local newspaper files [April 27] [27 again] [28] [29] and cemetery records [right] [register page 1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6].

In 1987 he wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph briefly reporting what he had found.

In brief, the local registry of births and deaths lists fewer than one hundred deaths from the air raid (most of them killed in one incident in a shelter in a local asylum, the Hospital-Asilo Calzada); bad enough. It will serve to put things in perspective if we show that the local Communist newspaper Euzkadi Roja, publishing a report on the raid on April 28, 1937, included a list of names of those few injured in the attack.

We would not have expected such a list to appear in the press after the later raids on London, Tokyo, or Dresden; in the two-week Israeli offensive in Gaza in January 2008, 40,000 Palestinians were injured and 1,300 killed.


A READER writes, Friday, January 30, 2009:

Mr. Irving, I recall this was discussed by Luis Bolin in his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, Spain: the Vital Years. He was the pilot who flew General Franco to Spain at the start of the war. His account supports the position you are defending.


A 3 page typescript list of data on fatalities during the air raid on Guernica, April 26, 1937
Interview with the Mayor (Alcalde) of Guernica, on May 11, 1967
Letter from Spanish historian Francisco Javier Bilbao Amézaga to David Irving April 26, 1967: how historian Hugh Thomas revised his figures: facsimile | transcript
Handwritten pages from death book: 3 pages. Los fallecidos en el Hospital-Asilo Calzada victimas del bombardeo aereo: pages 1, 2, 3
Piers Brendon disputes Mr Irving's account of the 1937 Guernica air raid
Extract from Letter from Maria Pilar Irving to David Irving, Bilbao, May 13, 1967
The Times report online about the attack
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