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English-language version of Luistxo Fernandez's blog

Newly unearthed pictures of war crimes at the Spanish Civil War; my father is in one of them

Luistxo Fernandez 2011/03/31 07:47

It's 74 years today that the Basque town of Durango was bombed by the Italian fascist air force servicing the rebel Spanish Army of Francisco Franco. More than 300 people died that morning, march 31 1937, in one of the many war crimes commited in the Spanish Civil War. My father survived, right there, where the red spot marks it in this picture, which is, astonishingly enough, the exact moment of the beginning of the raid, and it's a photo that has remained unpublished until this week, hidden in some Italian military archives in Rome, and has been rescued for historic memory of all thanks to the efforts of the Gerediaga cultural association of Durango.

Durangoko bonbardaketa, ezkurdi plaza

My father was 15 years old at the time. He's still alive, an old man that almost never leaves home, but with his mind and memory clear. I showed him this to him yesterday, we chatted once again about that day. Today, 74 years ago, he throw himself to the ground in the Ezkurdi plaza of Durango... After that first raid, he woke up with no hurts, surrounded by debris. Serendipity, I guess, looking at the newly found picture. He was a refugee from a nearby town, which was right on the frontline and had to be abandoned by his family. Their foster home was untouched on the attack.

If you look at the comparison image you will see that the target of the attackers was the very populated center of Durango, where locals and refugees lived packed. The church served them as a marker, that's clear, you see the bomb clouds covering it totally. The priest died on the spot. Eleven nuns also died in a nearby convent. The atackers were very catholic Italian and Spanish fascists, you know...

The picture rescued by Gerediaga was this. We rotated it to fit the north-south axis for an article in Sustatu, the Basque blog. Then we compared it with current day Google Maps, and I marked the Ezkurdi plaza in red. I was with my father there for the last time in 1997, on the eve of the 60th aniversary. I was a journalist then, and I was writing a series of reports for the Basque language newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria alltogether with historian Josu Chueca: the Spanish Civil War in the Basque Country, that was it. We wrote several episodes and for all of them we interviewed living witnesses of the events. For the episode about the fascist offensive of Bizkai in the spring of 1937, I just took my father to Durango and I used his remarks for that article (an act of vanity from my part, but I have no regrets). Here I am with my father there in 1997, in Ezkurdi plaza.

We didn't know at the time that we both would still see one day a picture depicting that very moment that my father is explaining to me there. Remember, these photos have remained hidden to the public until this day.

And that one from Durango is not the only one. Gerediaga brought around 100 reproductions of never seen material they found at the archives of the Ufficio Storico dell Stato Maggiore dela Aeronautica Militare in Rome. Me and other people have asked them to make the pictures public, and they intend to do so; they've begun with some of them, you can see them here. Immediatly other users have begun working over the photos... This attack on the town of Igorre has been put in comparison with Google Earth imagery by a Basque wikipedian:

Igorre 1937-2010

Se more of those pictures here, there were all taken from Italian war planes. They collaborated with the Spanish fascists, just like the Condor Legion of the German nazi Luftwaffe did. They made shifts for the raids, Durango for the Italians, Gernika for the Germans, just like that. It was pure training for them, just aiming at defenseless Basque civilians with whom none of those aviators had no involvement at all. The very existence of these photos on Italian archives shows that assesment of the bombings by photography was one of the motivations of the attackers.

That criminal campaign of aerial war crimes begin precisely in Durango on march 31, 1937. It ended by the end of June in Bilbao. It was a highly effective terror campaign that crushed and defeated the Basque front of the Spanish Civil War. The winners brought their flag to Durango and the other places... It's still there. The attacking army's main commander was General Francisco Franco; and he remained on that post until he died; but he left a designated successor both as head of State in Spain, and as the army's maximum commander, King Juan Carlos of Spain, yes, designated by Franco himself. We haven't heard any apologies from him or the Spanish army yet, for this crime commited by their Italian mercenaries.

Totoro staring at us from Japan

Luistxo Fernandez 2011/03/17 10:31

Japan is a wonderful country, but it has suffered greatly previously. Looking back to some pictures that we took 3 years ago in Hiroshima, it strikes to me the similarities with the landscape alteration caused by the tsunami, made visible by several websites with comparison slides. Yes, in march 2008 we were in Japan, for a short holiday with a Basque fried who's married there in Tokyo and has a lovely Basque-Japanese kid, Kotaro.

I am sure Japan will overcome this crisis. Totoro will help, ;-)

This was the image Basque cartoonist Patxi Huarte (pen name Zaldieroa, meaning Crazyhorse, a true genius IMHO) made for Basque newspaper Berria yesterday. I'm going to use that cartoon to revamp my Spanish blog, re-re-named as Cementerio de los Ingleses and moved once again. The image by Zaldieroa captures the mood, but also gives hope, that's what I sense in the picture. I've seen images coming from Japan these days that have reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki's poetic cinematography. At the end, poetry and resiliance will prevail.

I hope that the crisis also makes us think about nuclear safety. There are no nuclear plants in the Basque Country, but there is one just at the gates, Garoña. It's reactor is identical to n.1 in Fukushima Dai-ichi: same design (BWR type 3, 460 Mw), designer (General Electric), age (operating since 1971). It was due to be closed this year after 30 years working, but a very weak Spanish government delayed the closure, for the moment until 2013. Not anymore please, enough is enough.

The company behind Garoña, Nuclenor, has suffered a complete OWNED effect these days. Last year, they received a visit from Fukushima Dai-Ichi and they were soooo pleased boasting of the japanese twin sister reactor that the news story is still in the newsclipping section of their site. | Nuclenor, Garoña eta Fukushima © cc-by-sa: sustatu

The Nuclenor people also made this year a ridiculous rap clip, with engineers chanting the wonders of their reactor and criticizing anti-nuclear stances. Well, they still have a last line of defence; no tsunamis around. In inner Ukraine they don't suffer tsunamis either, yet Chernobyl failed. Well, that was flawed design. No problem then, 'cause we already know how well GE people designed those reactors... oh wait! ffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu...


Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

Ingelesen hilerria

El cementerio de los ingleses


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