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el correo gernika gernica

El Correo, April 26, 2017

The front page speaks for itself. "Guernika," Wednesday's edition of Spain's El Correo reads, with the Basque spelling of Guernica displayed in bold red letters against a black background. And just below "26.4.1937" — a date that will forever be linked to the Basque Country town and the horrific part it played, 80 years ago today, in Spain's devastating civil war.

Guernica was bustling when, starting at about 4:30 p.m., the first planes appeared from the west, the Bilbao-based daily recalls. Then, the unthinkable began: In wave after wave, for more than two hours, the planes mercilessly bombed and strafed the town, killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children.

"It was the first systematic bombing in history of a civilian population," the article reads. "Things had been heard about the atrocities that the Italians had committed from the air in Abisinia Ethiopia, but this far exceeded any known disaster."

Spanish-born artist Pablo Picasso famously depicted the Guernica massacre in expressionist scenes of mangled death and destruction.

The planes turned out to be German, operating in service of Spain's rebel army, which was bent on punishing the Basque leadership for its continuing support of the Spanish Republic. Years later, the attack would be seen in an even more sinister light, as a precursor — a trial run of sorts — for the horrors Adolf Hitler and his Nazi war machine would impose on so many other parts of Europe.

Up to that point, people thought Francisco Franco, the rebel leader and future dictator of Spain, wouldn't dare attack Guernica — "because of its symbolism for the Basque people," El Correo explains. "Nothing could have been further from the truth. Today, Guernica mourns a tragedy and ignominy that is without precedent in the history of humanity."

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