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37 Gernika by Drawings by Norman Neasom (1915 - 2010)

The Bombing of Gernika 1937

Drawing - Signed, date and inscribed

Image Area: 29ins x 20ins

This drawing was inspired from radio announcements and newspaper accounts at the time of the raid kn Gernike. Norman was extremely disturbed by the developments of the Spanish Civil War as can be seen from the smaller drawing titled "Spanish Civil War 1936". Norman titled this drawing "A raid by aeroplanes in the later 20th Century"

In April 1937, Gernika was the first city to be deliberately targeted for aerial bombing. Gernika was the ancient capital of the Basques, a group who had withstood the advances of the army since the Spanish Civil War began in 1936. Franco punished the region’s resilient stand when he allowed the virtually unprotected city to be bombed by Hitler's air force.

Franco's Nationalists had little air force power but Nazi Germany was very keen to try out its developing Luftwaffe. Hitler had sent out to Spain his Condor Legion lead by Lieutenant Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, cousin of the Red Baron of World War One.

It is said that it was Richthofen who selected Gernika as a target so the bombing would send a clear message of the military power of the Nationalists to the Republicans.

The raid was also an experiment as Gernika had been untouched by the war up to April 1937. No one knew what a bombing raid would do to a city.  A damaged city or one that had been heavily involved in the civil war would not give the same results as a city that was untouched.

The Condor Legion attacked in daylight and flew as low as 600 feet as it had no reason to fear the defence from the city, which had just one anti-aircraft gun. The first bombs fell on the city at 4.30 in the afternoon when the main square in the city centre was hit. It was market day and the city centre was packed with people.

Apologists for the raid have stated that the Condor Legion had selected strategic targets and that the one failing of the raid was the Legion's inability to accurately hit targets from height. The bombers that came in after the first wave instinctively targeted the area already on fire -again, the city centre.

By the time the Condor Legion had left, the centre of Gernika was in ruins. 1,654 people were killed and 889 wounded. The world was horrified but Franco denied that the raid ever took place. He blamed the destruction of Guernica on those who defended it. The Condor Legion returned in triumph as it had set out on a mission and returned intact.

The raid was to have enormous consequences in the diplomatic workings of Europe with Chamberlain's three meetings with Hitler in September 1938. Chamberlain, above all else, feared the possibility of a southern English city being similarly bombed.

This drawing is in a private collection

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