Month: April 2017 (page 1 of 3)

April 24 and April 26, 1937: Eibar and Gernika bombed

Eibar after the bombing in 1937

We have been commemorating the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika all week and today, we’ll just take a brief moment to recall that Gernika represented the climax to series of aerial attacks on Basque towns, the first use of this tactic (now arguably the most prominent form of waging war) on European soil. In earlier posts we have discussed the bombings of Durango and Elorrio as well as of Otxandio, and it also worth recalling that the town of Eibar in Gipuzkoa also suffered a bombardment on April 24. At 6 pm that day, the church bells rang out to warn people of the imminent attack. Most tried as best they could to get to shelter, and others fled west toward Bizkaia. Around 60 people were killed in the attack.

In That Old Bilbao Moon, Joseba Zulaika cites at length (p. 30) fragments from the diary of Wolfram von Richthofen, who was in charge of the elite Condor Legion, the Nazi unit dispatched to Spain to help Franco in the Spanish Civil War and test out the tactic of terror bombing, which would feature so prominently in World War II. The very “normality” of his observations makes for chilling reading:

4.4.1937. I have gone to Otxandio. Marvelous effects of the bombardment, and of the fighter plane and of the A/88 . . . Dead and mutilated people everywhere; heavy trucks, carrying part of the munitions, blown up.

24.4.1937. Elorrio has been evacuated by the enemy, one of our battalions is further advanced 500 meters in red territory. It is very entertaining to see, at the beginning of the sunset, the fire that comes out of the rifle mouths. . . . First they were bombarded once by the Italians, but then they were spared because of their pretty palaces.

25.4.1937. Finally the bomber planes arrive; the Ju dropped heavy bombs over Ermua very beautifully. . . . Again the Italians miss the target and bomb Eibar by mistake. . . . Elgueta, which was taken care of completely by the Italians on the 23rd, has a horrendous aspect. Very good results of the bombardment, the hits fell very tightly.

26.4.1937. Eibar, touching. . . . With the exception of a few houses, the center of the town was completely burned out. The beginning of the fire and the collapse of some houses was a very interesting
phenomenon.

27.4.1937. [The day after the bombing of Gernika] After lunch, a nice trip to the coast of Deba, where the headquarters of the Italian General Staff are, and to Ondarroa, the frontline, where there is also a command post.

Magnificent coast, which recalls Amalfi. . . . Toward Zarautz, where I find Sander and lodge for the night. Beautiful grand hotel at the edge of a pretty sea, with a good room and good food. There, magnificent.

In the morning again we discuss everything point by point. The transmission of news from unit to unit is a matter of concern. . . . It is not worth having transmissions of our own for this zarzuela operetta.

In the afternoon, Sander, Jaenecke and myself play cards.

28.4.1937. Also in the afternoon, precise information that Gernika has been literally razed to the ground.

29.4.1937. In the afternoon, playing cards with Sander and Jaenecke; the latter always ransacks us.

 

William Smallwood Donates Testimonies of Gernika bombing to Basque Museum

US writer William L. Smallwood, aka Egurtxiki, recently donated the transcripts of more than a hundred personal testimonies he collected from eyewitnesses to the destruction of Gernika 80 years ago. His donation was made to the documentation center at the Gernika Peace Museum. Smallwood collected the testimonies in the early 1970s as part of research for his book on the bombing, The Day Guernica was Bombed: A Story Told by Witnesses and Survivors.

The 87-year-old former World War II pilot and biologist Smallwood, who was born in Iowa, studied in Idaho, and who now resides in Arizona, made the trip to the Basque Country to be part of the 80th anniversary commemorations of the event and formally hand over the testimonies he collected more than forty years ago. His work has also recently been translated into Basque.

From his book’s own description: This book is the result of a person who started learning Basque in the sheep camps of Idaho in order to research the story of the Gernika bombing. In Mountain Home (Idaho) William Smallwood was baptized “Basilio Egurtxiki” by Dr. John Bideganeta, a second-generation Basque and a distinguished citizen of the town. “Egurtxiki” is the literal translation into Basque of Smallwood and the Basilio came from the man who was more of a father than any other man in his life, Basilio Yriondo, an “amerikanua,” a Basque sheepherder in the American West. In September of 1971 Egurtxiki came to Gernika to research his book on the bombing and, after earning the trust of the people, in the spring and summer of 1972 he managed to conduct seventy-four interviews with survivors of the bombing. The following fall and winter, primarily through the efforts of Maria Angeles Basabe, the number of interviews was increased to one hundred and twenty-four. They both risked much, for a person could be arrested and tortured for mentioning the bombing. All the interviews had to be conducted in absolute secrecy.

See a report (in Basque) and photo of Egurtxiki here in Berria.

 

Documentary about Gernika bombing posted online

In line with several other events taking place this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Gernika bombing, “Gernika: The Story,” a documentary on this crucial moment in Basque and even world history is available to watch via the Basque doc channel on YouTube.

Directed by Alberto Rojo, the documentary, according to its description on YouTube, “offers the most complete account to date of the local, national and international dimensions of the events of that fateful day” by using “dramatised reconstruction and virtual imaging of some key incidents” as well as interviews with experts on the event and first-hand accounts from survivors, including Luis Iriondo, Andone Bidaguren, Pedro Baliño, Juan Miguel Bombín, Itziar Arzanegi, and Francisco García San Román.

Gernika: voices after the bombs

Gernika exhibit posterThe bombing of cities and civilians during wartime has been a constant in history almost since planes became war guns. On April 26, 1937, Gernika, the sacred city of the Basque people, was brutally attacked and destroyed by the Nazi Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force, acting under the command of the Spanish General Francisco Franco.  More than 2,000 people were killed.

The bombing of Gernika was one of the first actions of the Condor Legion, a real-life training ground for the Nazi’s Blitzkrieg warfare. The methods developed by this unit served as a model for the bombings by the Luftwaffe during World War II.

Eighty years after this event, with the screaming and cries of those being bombed all around the world on television and social media, the voices of those who witnessed the destruction of Gernika remind us that suffering is real.

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library is opening the exhibit Gernika: Voices after the Bombs. Its goal is precisely to give voice to whose who suffered the bombing and its aftermath. The exhibit comprises a selection of six witnesses testimonials about the pain experienced by Gernika’s inhabitants. These testimonials have been translated into English, audio-recorded, and complemented with a mural of pictures of the ruins of Gernika.

Gernika exhibit photograph wall

The exhibit has been developed by Xabier Irujo, from the Center for Basque Studies, and Iñaki Arrieta Baro and Shannon Sisco, both from the Basque Library. They had the support of Mikel Amuriza, Edurne Arostegui, Daniel Fergus, Jill Stockton, Kathleen Szawiola, Irati Urkitza-Ansoleaga, Kyle Weerheim, and Joseba Zulaika in translations, marketing, and multimedia development.

Opening today, you can visit Gernika: Voices after the Bombs until the end of October at the window exhibit case at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

Lehendakari Urkullu plants a Tree of Gernika in Auschwitz

Last Thursday, April 20, Lehendakari Urkullu participated in the planting of the Tree of Gernika in Zasole Park (Oświęcim, Poland), close to the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. As Urkullu put it: “Auschwitz and Gernika represent a heartbreaking cry that lasts throughout time.” This event mirrors the numerous plantings of the tree throughout the world as a symbol of peace.

Deia

Urkullu noted, “We planted this tree of Gernika in this land of Auschwitz, together affirming  our commitment to and sowing of hope in a better world, a world respectful of life, dignity, and the human rights of all people.” The mayor of Oświęcim, Janusz Chwierut, attended the event alongside the president of the Bizkaian Juntas, Ana Otadui, and the president of the Association Pro-Tradition and Culture in Europe (APTCE), Enrique Villamor. Both Basques and Poles were present, including around 500 young people.

El Correo

The Tree of Gernika represents so much to Basques, and symbolically, its plantings around the world bring light to its history, that of the town of Gernika, and Basque culture more generally. It’s heartwarming to see so many people come together for an event such as this one.

Information for this post from Noticias de Gipuzkoa, published in Deia (in Spanish): http://www.noticiasdegipuzkoa.com/2017/04/20/politica/euskadi/urkullu-auschwitz-y-gernika-representan-un-grito-desgarrador-que-perdura-en-el-tiempo

To read more about other plantings, check out this article in Deia (also in Spanish): http://www.deia.com/2017/04/23/bizkaia/el-legado-de-iparragirre-se-abre-al-mundo

Dr. Irujo’s new book: Gernika, 26 de abril 1937

This Wednesday, April 26 marks the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika, during which the Nazi Luftwaffe and fascist Italian forces carried out a devastating aerial bombing of the market town for Franco’s forces during the Spanish Civil War, leaving thousands dead. Our own Professor Irujo has published extensively on the topic, and today we’d like to share the latest fruit of his labor: Gernika, 26 de abril 1937, published by the Editorial Crítica, part of Planeta de Libros, España.

Here’s a translation of the synopsis provided by the publisher:

A necessary book to clarify many of the lies about the bombing of Gernika and its hidden aspects in the public light to this day.

The bombing of Gernika is a very complex event, combining military, strategic, ideological and political aspects, as well as personal interests. Generally, it has been studied from the point of view of its victims, that is, from below. This book is a study of the logic underlying the attack and a detailed description of the bombing’s planning, organization, and execution. It is therefore a study of the bombing from the point of view of its engineers, a study “from above.” The book answers some of the basics of this story, namely who gave the order of attack, why Gernika was chosen, what resources the perpetrators had, how Gernika was bombed, why Gernika was bombed to the point of its disappearance, and how many fatalities were caused by the bombing.

Gernika was a turning point in the history of terror bombings and also the prologue of the subsequent saturation bombings of World War II. For the first time, German air command experimented a combination of ‘carpet bombing’ and ‘chain bombing’ in Gernika. Flying from three to six degrees deep in closed formations through a narrow air corridor, successive groups of bombers unloaded a novel mixture of explosive and incendiary projectiles over the urban area of ​​Gernika that was barely 1 km2, while ground attack aircraft and fighters created a ‘ring of fire’ around the village by machine-gunning civilians from the air. The effect was devastating.

The book also addresses an issue closely linked to the history of the bombing: General Franco ordered everyone to lie about the bombing of Gernika on April 27, less than 24 hours after the attack. Specifically, Carlo Bossi’s telegram includes Franco’s order to deny the bombing and denounce “the fiery system of Reds burning all urban centers before withdrawal.” The negationism resulting from this policy of the dictatorship has given rise to subsequent historiographic reductionism. Franco’s order has made this historical fact one of the most paradigmatic frauds of twentieth-century historiographic revisionism.

For anyone interested in this tragic event, this book is a must read.

We’d also like to bring your attention to a new review of Dr. Irujo’s book Gernika, 1937: The Market Day Massacre, by Ian Patterson for The American Historical Review, it’s definitely worth reading!

April 18, 1815: A Daring Basque Robbery

On April 18, 1815, a convoy including the Duke of Bourbon, the cousin of the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, was making its way over the Arlaban Pass that marks the border between Araba and Gipuzkoa. On the steep climb up the hill, the carriage containing the duke, which was being pulled by two oxen, became slightly separated from the convoy. Seizing the opportunity, five armed men appeared from out of the woods and proceeded to liberate the duke of all the equipment, treasures, and documents he was carrying.

Asalto al coche (Robbery of the coach), 1786-1787, by Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arlaban Pass had, it should be noted, gained an infamous reputation for such highway robbery. Indeed, many of the so-called highwaymen gained a kind of infamous notoriety, men like the guerrillas Espoz and Mina as well as Sebastián Fernández de Leceta or “Dos Pelos” (Two Hairs). 

Witnesses to the robbery said that the thieves were Basques, as could be discerned from their accents, which also led people to believe they came from an area between Tolosa and Hernani in Gipuzkoa. The main suspect was subsequently thought to be one N. de Lazkao, who was fairly identifiable because of his green eyes and red beard. But despite the dispatch of multiple search parties and an investigation that lasted ten years, no one was ever apprehended.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 167-68.

Basque speakers now in majority in Bilbao

“I want to live in Basque.” Image by Xavier Vazquez, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque daily Deia reported on Sunday, April 16, that Basque-speakers now account for 51.2 % of the overall population of the city. According to the Bilbao City Council’s Office of Basque and Education, the number of Basque speakers has quadrupled in the last thirty years. Councilmember for Basque and Education Koldo Narbaiza commented that, “Out of 342,370 inhabitants of the capital [of Bizkaia], 78,727 can read and write in Basque, 96,774 know Basque although not academically, and 166,869 are non-Basque speakers … In total, 175,501 Bilbao residents, that is 51.2%, know Basque.”

Basque speakers in Bilbao, from Deia.

What’s more, and interestingly, this rise in numbers is fairly evenly spread throughout the city. And another point of interest is that the average age of Basque speakers has changed significantly in recent years, with young people now outnumbering seniors when it comes to knowledge of the language.

See the full article (in Spanish) here.

Here at the Center we have a wide range of books about the Basque language. Download a free copy of Estibaliz Amorrortu’s Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture here. And check out a couple of books that discuss two sides of the coin when it comes to forms of Basque: Koldo Zuazo’s The Dialects of Basque, which explores the rich variety of the language; and Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, which charts how a modern standard version of the language was created and embraced by Basque society.

See, too, another couple of interesting takes on how the Basque language fits into contemporary Basque society: The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi; and This Strange and Powerful Language by Iban Zaldua.

Center publication presented at recent conference in Bilbao

At a recent conference in Bilbao, held on April 6, regarding the Economic Agreement–the principal fiscal mechanism regulating economic ties between the Basque Country and Madrid–in the media, Joseba Agirreazkuenaga presented the CBS publication The Basque Fiscal System Contrasted to Nevada and Catalonia: In the Time of Major Crises.

Read the event’s program here (in Basque and Spanish). This new publication seeks to analyze Basque fiscal systems in the context of the 2008 financial crisis. It also aimed to develop a comparative vision with the state of Nevada and Catalonia. It treats the politics of finance in multi-level public institutions during the economic crisis; long-term fiscal policies for dealing with economic downturns during the past twenty years; the development of treasuries in federal states, in non-federal states and in complex unions (Europe); taxation and citizenship in a globalized world; long-term trends for dealing with the crisis and strategies for the future in European and North American contexts (the Basque Country, Catalonia, Spain, Ireland, and Nevada). Most of the book’s contributions by distinguished scholars and public officials relate to the Basque Country, providing an analysis of fiscal policies or the evolution of public finances. A contribution on taxation and gambling is also offered. This book serves as a new contribution to studies on fiscal federalism in Europe and America. We hope that these reflections serve as a turning point to promote debate and for the formulation of future research. Fiscal analysis is now an important research line at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies, promoted and in cooperation with the regional government of Bizkaia, with the end of promoting research in a comparative perspective.

CBS translation of Gabriel Aresti into English discussed in Basque press

In El Correo Iñaki Esteban recently discussed the Center’s bilingual Basque-English publication of the canonical works of Basque poet Gabriel Aresti; part of our Classic Series that receives generous financial support from the Provincial Government of Bizkaia. As Esteban himself observes, “With English one goes everywhere, and the literature and culture in general of a country need that language as well to circulate in the world. Without translations into the lingua franca of the modern age, books are restricted to their own field of projection, whether written in Russian, Spanish, or Basque.” With this new Center publication, he continues, the “deep hole” of having none of Aresti’s work in English available has been filled. Amaia Gabantxo, who translated the work for the Center, agrees: “We need translations of Basque authors into English so our culture becomes known and so that universities can offer the subject ‘Basque Studies’ … We know other literatures through their translations.”

See the full article (in Spanish) here.

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