At the behest of then Fascist Nationalist Party leader, Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, warplanes from Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Salazar’s Portugal, all fascist allies of Franco and his Nationalists, on 26 April 1937, a market day, without warning or provocation, mercilessly, for three hours, bombed the village of Guernica, the cultural capital of the Basque people.
Seventy percent of the village was reduced to rubble, and over one-third of the entire population of the village was either killed or severely wounded. Those trying to flee the collapsing buildings were gunned down by the machine guns of the fighter planes. The Basque people, together with the French, the Soviets, and the Mexicans, supported the Republication forces in their struggle against Franco’s fascists.
Franco and his Fascist Nationalists prevailed, and he became dictator of the new fascist state. He and his party would remain in power from 1939 ’til his death in 1975.
Picasso, Spanish by birth, left Spain for Paris at the age of 20. In 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso publicly announced his support of the Republicans. He had visited Spain intermittently ’til then, but after the death of his mother in 1938, with the beginning of Franco’s regime as dictator of Spain, Picasso vowed never again to return while Franco still ruled. Unfortunately, Picasso never made it back to his homeland. He died in France, the country that had for long provided him haven and unrivaled artistic freedom, in 1973.
Picasso’s Guernica is a cry of outrage against fascism, and, specifically, against the horror that occurred that Monday market day, 26 April 1937, in the quiet little village of Guernica, the heart of Spain’s and the world’s Basque community.
On 24 April 1999, the German Parliament formally apologised to the citizens of Guernica for the role the Nazi Condor Legion played in the bombing. The Italians, the Portuguese, and the Spanish have yet to apologise to the Basque.