Thursday, 26 April 2012

75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Guernica a poem by A.S Knowland.

Guernica - Pablo Picasso

Seventy-five years ago,  in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica was carpet bombed by Fascist Italian and Nazi German forces. Three-quarters of Guernica was destroyed, and as many as 1,600 civilians were killed. The attack was immortalised in Pablo Picasso's Guernica, one of the most iconic paintings of the twentieth century.Which showed the horrors of war as expressed by the destruction of Guernica.
Franco, who ruled Spain as a fascist dictator for nearly forty years, from 1936 until his death in 1975, claimed the attack on Guernica never took place. They tried to blame the Basques, but the truth is Germany deliberately bombed the town to destroy it and observe in a clinical way the effects of such a devastating attack, practicing a new form of warfare, where only civilians were the targets.In October 1937, a Nationalist officer told a Sunday Times correspondent: 'We bombed it, and bombed it, and bombed it and Beuno why not.'This atrocity horrified the world and helped shift public opinion towards the Spanish Republican Cause, but shamefully the British Government stuck steadfastardly to its non intervevention line. The fascists hated liberalism and humanity, their ideology was one of evil destruction, 'Long Live Death' they cried.  Guernica represented their creed, with one of the Fascist Generals declaring " Like a resolute surgeon, free from false sentimentality, it will cut the diseased flesh from the healthy body and fling it to the dogs. And since the healthy flesh is the soil, the diseased flesh, the people who dwell on it, fascism and the army will eradicate the people and restore the soil to the sacred national realm... Every socialist, Republican, every one of them, without exception, and needless to say, every Communist, will be eradicated, without exception.' An ideology of unfettered hate, and evil..... it's ideology still trying to tear the world apart, as we can see with what has happened in Norway, or on the streets of Britain where it's forces seek to gather, fostering  hatred and division.
After Guernica , George Steers eyewitness account in The Times described what he saw as 'without mercy, with system', words that remain tragically pertinent to the bloody legacy of carpet bombing in conflicts ever since. Conflicts that continue across the world.... humanity still descends into darkness.... the Rape of Nanking, the Second World War, the Holocaust, Syria, Bahrain, Cheknya, Rwanda, the continuing confontation between Israel and Palestine......
So we must remember Guernica , and  its legacy, we must make sure the fascists are stopped in their tracks, we must not let them pass.... we must carry on singing no pasaron to whatever disguise they dress themselves up in..... The English Defence League, The British National Party or the British Freedom Party.
We much continue to be enraged by crimes against humanity, and together we should try to work together for peace.

Guernica - A.S Knowland

Irun- Badajoz - Malaga - and then Guernica

So that the swastika and the eagle
might spring from the blood-red soil,
bombs were sown into the earth at Guernica,
whose only harvest was a calculated slaughter.
Lest freedon should wave between the grasses
and the corn its proud emblem, or love
be allowed to tread its native fields,
Fascism was sent to destroy the innocent,
and, goose-stepping to the exaggerated waving
of the two-faced flag, to save Spain.

But though the soil be saturated with blood
as a very efficient fertiliser, the furrow
of the ghastly Fasces shall remain barren.
The  planted swastika, the eagle grafted
on natural stock shall wither and remain sere;
for no uniformed force shall marshall the sap
thrilling to thrust buds into blossoms, or quicken
the dead ends of the blighted branches;
but the soil shall be set against an alien crop
and the seed be blasted in the planting.

But strength lies in the strength of the roots.
They shall not pass to ruin Spain!

Reprinted from
The Penguin Book of
Spanish Civil War Verse (1980)

Further Reading:-

The Spanish Civil War - Hugh Thomas
Penguin (1965)

They Shall Not Pass:
The Spanish People at War
-Richard Kissh (1974)

Two earlier posts on the
Spanish Civil War Below.

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