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Guernica's History Essay

1086 words - 4 pages

Guernica's History

The word art is an encompassing one, vastly interpreted and with multiple definitions. In the case of Picasso's painting Guernica, art informs, educates and expresses. Its power lies in its ability to capture and compel an audience nearly six decades after the modern world's "other" day of infamy. To understand fully the painting that evolved out of the Spanish painter's outrage, one must know its context. "Why do you think I date everything I do? Because it is not sufficient to know an artist's works--it is also necessary to know when he did them, why, under what circumstances" (Picasso). An appreciator who knows the saga of Spain's historical fishing village is given a depth of experience that only a genius like Picasso could portray --"it may well be the most terrifying document on the horrors of war ever to be produced by an artist" (Wertenbaker 126).

Most people do not even know that the ancient Basque village Guernica exits, let alone that one third of its citizens were senselessly slaughtered or wounded in little more than three hours. On April 26, 1937, German bombers attacked Guernica, an open city. The unprovoked attack began at 4:30, the busiest hour of a market day. The streets were jammed with townspeople and peasants from the countryside. Never before in modern warfare had noncombatants been slaughtered in such numbers, and by such means (Wertenbaker 1967).

During the Spanish Civil War Franco's army was often assisted by Germany. The Nazi General Goering's policy was to use the Spanish Civil War as an arena for trying out the airmen and planes of his new Luftwaffe . The Condor Legion was headed by Wolfram Von Richthofen, the cousin of the near mythical Red Baron of the First World War. Von Richthofen was eager to create his own myth as a combat pilot, likewise the crews of fighters and bombers of the Condor Legion were anxious to experience what they had been trained for: sudden coordinated air and ground assault or, as it was soon to be known, blitzkreig (Chipp 1988). The apparent goal of the assault was hitting a bridge near an important road junction that possibly could be used in the future by Republican forces. Given that the intent was only to hit the bridge, Von Richthofen would have used his Stuka dive bombers, capable of carrying a single bomb weighing 1,000 pounds. Equipped with the latest bomb sights, a Stuka had a high chance of taking out the bridge with one direct hit. Even a near miss would have made a powerful shock wave that, if it did not cause the bridge the bridge to collapse, would doubtless have made it unsafe for traffic (Gordon, Morgan 1975).

The Condor Legion had had many successful missions to prove their accuracy. For example, they succeeded in dropping provisions squarely into the courtyard of the besieged Nationalist city of Alcazar. For the Guernica mission the Condor Legion was equipped with airplanes consisting of three German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers and...

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