A powerful and searing account of the destruction of Guernica by Hitler’s Condor League in April 1937 written by Paul Preston – foremost historian of 20th century Spain and best-selling and critically acclaimed author of The Spanish Holocaust.
The destruction of Guernica seventy-five years ago, on 26 April 1937, is burned into European consciousness as the first time aerial bombardment wiped out an undefended civilian target in Europe. The events of that day have provoked more savage polemic than any single act of war since. With the help of Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica is now remembered as the place where the new and horrific warfare came of age.
It was market day in the sleepy Basque town. Guernica was packed with farmers and traders flocking to sell their wares, to catch-up on the news and purchase goods, little-expecting the devastation that was about to fall upon them. Just before 5pm, planes from Hitler’s Condor League began their assault, bombing and shelling the town for over three hours, swooping low to machine-gun civilians as they fled.
In this book, Paul Preston – the foremost historian of 20th century Spain – tells the story of this tragedy and examines not only the tactics and motivations of Hitler’s Condor Legion, their subordination to Franco’s orders; the obsessive cruelty of Franco’s commander in the north, General Emilio Mola, and the purpose of the attack on Guernica within Franco’s war effort; but also the vital part played by journalists like George Steer whose eye-witness reports for The Times from Guernica roundly disproved Franco’s mendacious denials of involvement, focused the eyes of the world on the tragedy, and helped persuade the British government to allow over 4,000 Basque child refugees into Britain.
Published to tie-in with the 75th anniversary of the bombing, this book cuts through the lies, manipulative comments and misunderstandings that have surrounded this tragedy to give an authoritative, deeply moving account of what happened that day in Guernica.