|The Bombing of Guernica|
It was market day in Guernica when the church bells of
Santa Maria sounded the alarm that afternoon in 1937. People from the
surrounding hillsides crowded the town square. "Every Monday was a fair in
Guernica," says José Monasterio, eyewitness to the bombing. "They
attacked when there were a lot of people there. And they knew when their bombing
would kill the most. When there are more people, more people would die."
"We were hiding in the shelters and praying. I only thought of running away, I was so scared. I didn't think about my parents, mother, house, nothing. Just escape. Because during those three and one half hours, I thought I was going to die." (eyewitness Luis Aurtenetxea)
News of the bombing spread like wildfire. The Nationalists immediately denied any involvement, as did the Germans. But few were fooled by Franco's protestations of innocence. In the face of international outrage at the carnage, Von Richthofen claimed publicly that the target was a bridge over the Mundaca River on the edge of town, chosen in order to cut off the fleeing Republican troops. But although the Condor Legion was made up of the best airmen and planes of Hitler's developing war machine, not a single hit was scored on the presumed target, nor on the railway station, nor on the small-arms factory nearby.
Note: On May 12, 1999, the New York Times reported that, after sixty-one years, in a declaration adopted on April 24, 1999, the German Parliament formally apologized to the citizens of Guernica for the role the Condor Legion played in bombing the town. The German government also agreed to change the names of some German military barracks named after members of the Condor Legion. By contrast, no formal apology to the city has ever been offered by the Spanish government for whatever role it may have played in the bombing.
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