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!
As you may have read in our post on the Day of the Basque Language, celebrations were held around the world. Our professor Xabier Irujo took part in the festivities that took place in Montevideo, Uruguay, so we’ve decided to share the jam-packed schedule of events. The way the Basque community in Uruguay was able to organize and observe the event sets a high bar for us all!
The Euskara Eguna (Day of the Basque Language) celebrations organized by the Euskal Erria Society of Montevideo began with the re-inauguration on December 2, 2016, of the Plaza Jesús de Galíndez. Attendees, including Agurtzane Aguado, president of the Society, unveiled a plaque in honor of Galíndez, an exiled Basque nationalist, who was a victim of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and was assassinated in 1956.
On the 3rd, an act commemorating the bombing of Gernika took place in the city’s Plaza Gernika. A lecture was given by Dr. Xabier Irujo, director of the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, while the txistulari Aitor Ormaetxe from Mar de Plata and the dantzari Martin Mendiola also performed. The event was closed with a concert by the Voces de la Plaza de Montevideo choir.
That evening, a meeting of three Basque-American publishers, Euskal Erria of Montevideo, Ekin of Buenos Aires, and the CBS Press in Reno was held at the headquarters of the Euskal Erria Society. There were book presentations of the many publications that came out in 2016. Dr. Irujo presented the ten titles that the CBS Press had published last year, including Basques in Cuba edited by William Douglass, which is a tribute to the book that Jon Bilbao published with Ekin in 1958. With the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the CBS Press also published a bilingual edition of Macbeth, which was translated for the first time into Basque by Bingen Ametzaga in 1942, although this translation had remained unpublished until now. Ekin of Buenos Aires published four books in 2016: La Odisea de Xabiertxo by Koldo Ordozgoiti, Historia de Radio Euskadi by Leyre Arrieta, Contraviaje by Arantzazu Ametzaga, and Diasporako Bertsoak by Asier Barandiaran. These four authors offered a presentation of their works the same day, December 3, at the Durango Book Fair in the Basque Country. The Euskal Erria publishing house produced three works in 2016: William MacAlevey’s The Rise of Legal Professions in Bilbao, José Luis de la Lombana by Iñaki Anasagasti and Josu Erkoreka, and, lastly, Ecos Vascos del Uruguay, a selection of Basque-Uruguayan inspired poems by the former Minister of the Interior and Defense of Uruguay, Raul Iturria.
There were hundreds of attendees who enjoyed a traditional roast (asado con cuero) and a recitation of poems from Iturria’s anthology of poetry.
On Monday, December 5, during the afternoon, Dr. Irujo gave another lecture at the CLAEH University’s headquarters, during which he spoke about the episodes of genocide that struck Basque soil between 1936 and 1945.
The celebrations culminated at the Parliament’s House of Representatives with an homage to the reception on October 8, 1941 that said House made to the Lehendakari Jose Antonio Agirre. The Deputy of the Partido Nacional, Pablo Iturralde, promoter of the tribute, spoke first, referring to the speech that the lehendakari offered before the House of Representatives. He ended by saying: “Today we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the episode that for both Agirre and the Uruguayan Basque community was so significant and moving, because in our country and especially in this House, the national representatives of that moment had the courage to contradict the powerful voice of international fascism that slandered the Basque people with impunity, even accusing them of the genocide in the town of Gernika that they themselves had bombarded with unknown brutality. That is why the descendants of those immigrants today have appealed to us so that, making use of the representation that Uruguayan citizens have conferred upon us, we pay homage to those men who in such dignified fashion came before us.”
After Deputy Iturralde’s speech, the president of the Basque Parliament Bakartxo Tejería’s message was viewed on screen, which made reference to the message that Lehendakari Agirre made to the Uruguayan Parliament. Afterward, the Deputy of the Frente Amplio Party Jorge Pozzi, who is of Basque descent, spoke about his spiritual connection to the Basque world and culture. He was followed by Germán Cardoso of the Partido Colorado, Daniel Radio of the Partido Independiente, José Luis Hernández of the Movimiento de Participación Popular (Frente Amplio), and, finally, José Arocena of the Partido Nacional. All of them referred to the noble and hardworking spirit of the Basques and the contribution that these people had made to the culture and history of the country, as well as to the desire for the independence of the Basque people. The MPP representative made public his support for the struggle for recognition of the Basque nation’s right to self-determination.
At the end of the session, which turned out to be very emotional and warm-spirited, the attendees went to the Acuña Figueroa of the legislative palace where the representative of the Euskal Erria publishing house, Mr. Alberto Irigoyen, and the President of the Parliament, Gerardo Amarilla, intervened. A facsimile of Lehendakari Agirre’s diary was given to the latter, as well as a copy of the history of the Euskal Erria Society and a history book on the Basque government-in-exile. The president of the Euskal Erria Society, Agurtzane Aguado, said that there are many Uruguayan figures who have referred to the contribution of the Basques to Uruguay, and recalled the words that Dr. Alberto Guani, President of the Supreme Court of Uruguay in 1941, said of the honor given by that institution to the Lehendakari Agirre: “For the first time in the history of the High Court of Uruguay, a meeting of this nature has been held in honor of a politician; And this has been so because when humanity fights a decisive battle between freedom and slavery, perversion and honesty, justice cannot remain blind to the drama and has the duty to put the sword that it carries as a symbol for the service of human dignity, represented by men like Mr. Agirre, defeated in the first part of the battle in which the forces of good triumphed.” Dr. Irujo closed the act by referring to the deep gratitude of all exiled Basques and immigrants to the American nations that provided asylum to these people when they suffered persecution and oppression in a war-torn Europe. Finally, the choir Voices of the Plaza concluded by singing “Agur Jaunak.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the notable Basque anthropologist, ethnographer, archeologist, and priest José Miguel de Barandiaran’s death. The Barandiaran Foundation has organized a series of five roundtable discussions in his honor entitled “Europe, Barandiaran and Values,” being held in various Basque capitals from October 20 to December 15.
Last Thursday, November 17, our professor and colleague Xabier Irujo participated in the event that took place in Donostia-San Sebastián at the Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea. Professor Irujo spoke about Barandiaran and exile via Skype, and members of the CBS and UNR attended, making it an international affair. He was joined by a panel composed of Asier Barandiaran, Argitxu Camus Etchecopar, Gaspar Martinez, and Ixone Fernandez de Labastida, who spoke about various topics including Barandiaran and Europe; Barandiaran’s values in contemporary society; Barandiaran, science, and faith; and lastly Barandiaran and Basque society. This group of scholars have participated in all of the events and are at the heart of this discussion series, traveling from city to city to present to and answer questions from the wider community.
The following are a series of quotes by the participants on what Barandiaran as a researcher represents in various fields:
ASIER BARANDIARAN- Barandiaran’s values in contemporary society
“Barandiaran was rooted in Christian values. However, on the other hand, he offered different visions by being in touch with diverse cultures and was always committed to people. He would often say ‘I hope I will be remembered as a person who has loved love’. Kindness, sharpness, honesty, solidarity, truth, justice, work well done, and a long chain of values are what define Barandiaran.”
ARGITXU CAMUS- Barandiaran and Europe
“José Miguel de Barandiaran was a convinced European. He learned French, German, and English on his own. When he was very young, he opened himself up to European science. He studied the most famous anthropologists, ethnologists, and linguists of the time. He went to the very sources of science in order to compare them to his own ideas. And since then, the Ataundarra took part in numerous courses in diverse universities throughout Europe, as a student and professor. The work of Barandiaran has contributed a great deal to European ethnology.”
GASPAR MARTINEZ- Barandiaran: Science and faith
“Barandiaran was primarily a priest. In addition, he was also an archaeologist, anthropologist, ethnologist, historian…that is, a man of science. Even so, he was able to reconcile religion and science. A difficult exercise, considering the strict postulates of the Catholic Church of the time. Even though the studies carried out to clarify his doubts were based on research by people of faith, Barandiaran, in order to achieve absolute tranquility, wanted to place his ideas at the same level as other researchers of different beliefs.”
IXONE FERNANDEZ DE LABASTIDA-Barandiaran and Basque society
“One of the most studied facets of José Miguel de Barandiaran is that of him as an anthropologist. However, with the passage of time and in light of the historical context in which he developed his work, Barandiaran could also be considered a social activist. Thanks to his particular methodology and its object of study, this anthropologist contributed not only to mitigation of the discourse on the race coming from Europe but also to the reconstruction of social ties and the feeling of shared cultural identity in Euskal Herria.”
XABIER IRUJO- Barandiaran and Exile
“Joxe Migel Barandiaran lived for 17 years in exile in Iparralde, in Miarritze first and later in Sara. During these years, he collaborated and at times led the group of vascologos and euskaltzales who met in these early years of exile, and most fundamentally after the liberation, who then received the name ‘Los caballeritos de San Juan de Luz’. Among the most outstanding works of Barandiaran in exile are the creation of Ikuska, Eusko Jakintza and the ‘Jakin Bilerak’, which helped to consolidate the network of Basque scholars of the diaspora in America.”
Overall, the event was a fantastic way to learn more about Barandiaran and his work, making it a fitting homage to the prolific and wide-ranging scholar who did so much for Basque culture and history.
To learn more about the series, visit the Barandiaran Foundation’s website: http://www.barandiaranfundazioa.eus/index.php/es/
See, too, the Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, edited by Jesus Altuna. This is a marvelous introduction, in English, to Barandiaran’s published work and the various fields in which he researched, from Basque prehistory and mythology to essays on the importance of the household and hunting in Basque culture.
The group Elogoibar 1936 held an exhibition in September on the Condor Legion and its decisive intervention in the Spanish Civil War to mark the 80th anniversary of the entry of fascist troops in Elgoibar.
This was the 28th stop of the traveling exhibit since May 2013, which has been shown throughout the Basque Country thanks to Baskale, a Basque-German cultural association based in Bilbao.
The graphic exhibition is entitled “… a complete success for the Luftwaffe. The destruction of Gernika by the Condor Legion. The past and present of a Nazi crime in the war of 36/37.”
The exhibition, which consists of 16 information panels, is based on an investigation by the regional history group “Arbeitskreis Regionalgeschichte,” based in a town near Hanover in northern Germany. The airbase where the German elite squad, later called the Condor Legion, was created is located in this town. In the 80s, the group began to go to the military archives in Germany and managed to gather information that until then had been hidden and covered under a blanket of silence.
The exhibition is characterized by providing the German point of view in its historical relations with the Spanish state and is not limited to describing the facts of the bombing of Gernika. It begins by recounting historical events, such as the military cooperation between Germany and Spain before Franco and Hitler in the Rif War or the secret illegal rearmament of the German forces after their defeat in World War I. It makes clear that Franco had Nazi support from the start, without which it would not have been possible to transport his troops from Morocco and Tenerife to the Spanish mainland. It continues to describe the Condor Legion operation on the Northern Front and devotes a chapter to the bombing of Gernika. The use of the newly created Air Force (Luftwaffe) under the conditions of war served as a practice ground for the systematic testing of people and equipment in light of the already planned World War II. In the bombing of Warsaw, Coventry, Calais, etc., experienced pilots of the Condor Legion were listed as instructors. The last panels of the exhibition speak of the lies about the bombing of Gernika, “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, and encounters with Nazi veterans until the 80s, closing with the demand for political condemnation and a debate on the issue of a necessary reparation for the damage caused.
The documentary CONDOR LEGION: Past and present of a Nazi crime was screened at the opening of the exhibition in Elgoibar. This documentary was made based on the Baskale exhibition held in 2014 with assistance from the Basque government. Interesting points about the birth of the German military and its role in the bombing of Gernika are revealed, taken as a field of experimentation for a future World War. The following experts from Germany, the Basque Country, and Spain were involved in the documentary:
Oiane Valero, historian and researcher
Hubert Brieden, historian and researcher
Angel Viñas, historian, economist, and diplomat
Ingo Niebel, historian and journalist
Xabier Irujo, historian and philologist- Professor at the CBS
Baskale’s work is based on the three principles of the Historical Memory movement: Truth, justice, and reparation. The main objective of the exhibition and documentary is to provide the truth about the Condor Legion and its war crimes, providing a framework for discussion that aims to learn from history so as to not repeat it.
The Baskale association denounces the historical impunity of the crimes committed by the Condor Legion, which systematically spread terror and panic among the civilian population of the more than 30 villages bombed in the Basque Country, also responsible for thousands of deaths in the Spanish state and in the many countries attacked during World War II.
The documentary can be watched online, using the following links:
Welcome back! It’s the start of Fall 2016 at UNR and the Center for Basque Studies. The center is bustling again with the return of both students and professors. The Basque Studies Department is offering two courses this semester: Basque Culture, taught by our very own Dr. Sandy Ott and Basque language, with our wonderful Kate Camino. Students from all walks of life have taken up the arduous task of learning Basque, and are coming along quite well. Dr. Ott’s class is packed with students from all fields and backgrounds, generating discussion on topics both within and beyond Basque cultural studies. Meanwhile, Dr. Xabier Irujo is teaching a course as part of the Holocaust, Genocide and Peace Studies program on Concepts in Peace Studies and Nonviolence. The bombing of Gernika and its significance is among the topics discussed in this interdisciplinary course. The start of the academic year is off to a great start!
Be sure to check out our blog for news about future events, such as our lecture series which is set to kick off soon.
The tumultuous period between the end of the Spanish Civil War in April 1939 and the outbreak of World War II in September that same year marked a critical time in Basque history. Basques exiles who had fled into France and beyond during and after the Spanish Civil War suddenly found themselves once more prey to the advance of Fascism.
Following the fall of Poland in 1939, Hitler’s forces swept north and westward in the spring of 1940, taking Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and, finally, France, with Paris falling to the Germans on June 14. In the less than a year most of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis. Only the United Kingdom held out.
The charismatic leader of the Basque government-in-exile, Jose Antonio Agirre, had gotten caught up in these events and had been forced underground–ultimately in of all places, Berlin–into an incognito existence as he sought an escape from the Fascist clutches (on this, if you haven’t already done so, check out his riveting memoir Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe). In his absence, the Basque government-in-exile was replaced by a Basque National Council, headed by Manuel Irujo and based in London.
It is during that time, in the interesting period before Agirre’s reappearance in October 1941, that the Basque National Council carried out a series of negotiations, most notably with both the British government and the representatives of Free France (effectively the exiled democratic French government) led by Charles de Gaulle. Most famously, perhaps, these negotiations resulted in the creation of the Gernika Battalion, made up of Basque exiles, which fought with distinction with the French army in defeating the Germans in 1945 (the story of which we covered in a previous post here).
Less well known, certainly, was a fascinating agreement brokered by the Basque National Council in London. Xabier Irujo picks up the story in his Expelled from the Motherland (p. 17):
In less than a month the Basque National Council and the British government had made their first agreement on military collaboration. Robert J. G. Boothby, representing the British government, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, representing the Basque National Council, signed the first agreement on July 29, 1940, which spelled out that the British government was committed to defending the independence of the Basque Country if the Spanish government went to war on the side of the Axis powers.
Ultimately, and despite plenty of willing on the part of Franco, Spain did not enter the war on the side of Hitler and this agreement was never implemented; yet another example of one of those twists of fate around which history revolves.
If you’re interested in this topic, as well as the abovementioned works, see also War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, available free to download here; and, for more general background, Modern Basque History, by Cameron Watson, available free to download here.