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Genealogy of a Lie

Xabier Irujo is director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he is professor of genocide studies. Member of the editorial board of four academic presses, he has authored more than 15 books and has received awards at national and international levels. His recent books include Gernika 1937: The Market Day Massacre (Nevada UP, 2015), The Bombing of Gernika (Center for Basque Studies Press, Reno, 2018) and Legal History of the Basque Language (HAEE, Bilbao, 2015).

On April 26, 1937, a weekly market day, nearly sixty bombers and fighters attacked Gernika. They dropped between 31 and 46 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs on the city center. The desolation was absolute: 85 percent of the buildings in the town were totally destroyed; more than 2,000 people died in an urban area of less than one square kilometer.

Lying is inherent to crime. The bombing of Gernika is associated to one of the most outstanding lies of twentieth-century history. Just hours after the destruction of the Basque town, General Franco ordered to attribute authorship of the atrocity to the “Reds” and that remained the official truth until his death in 1975. Today no one denies that Gernika was bombed. However, the initial regime denial gave way to reductionism, namely, the attempt to minimize the scope of what took place, calling into question that it was an episode of terror bombing, questioning Franco’s and his generals’ responsibility, diminishing the magnitude of the means employed to destroy Gernika and lessening the death toll.

Even today, in the view of several authors the tragedy of Gernika is little less than an overstated myth broadcasted by Picasso. This vision of the facts feeds on the dense network of falsehoods woven for forty years of dictatorship and the “one only truth” of El Caudillo. Xabier Irujo exposes this labyrinth of falsehoods and leads us through a genealogy of lies to their origin, metamorphosis and current expressions. Gernika was a key event of contemporary European history; its “alternative facts” historiography an exemplar for commentators and historians faced with disentangling contested viewpoints on current military and political conflicts, and too often war crimes and genocide that result.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-975-3
Paperback Price: £24.95 / $34.95
Release Date: March/April 2019
Page Extent / Format: 200 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


Author's Preface

  1. Italy and Germany did not intervene.
  2. It was a civil and Spanish war.
  3. No market was held in Gernika.
  4. Gernika has not been bombed: it has been destroyed by fire and gasoline.
  5. Gernika was bombed, but the destruction was mainly due to the fire.
  6. Gernika was bombed, but the destruction was mainly due to the action of the Italian planes.
  7. Gernika was bombed and shelled by Basque troops.
  8. It was a strategic bombing whose objective was the Errenteria bridge.
  9. It was a strategic bombing whose objective was to cut the withdrawal to the Basque troops.
  10. Gernika was a legitimate military objective because…
  11. It was not a terror bombing.
  12. The destruction was mainly due to the mismanagement of the Basque firefighters.
  13. Franco did not know anything.
  14. Spanish aircraft did not participate in the bombing.
  15. It was an accident.
  16. Richthofen ordered his men to spare Gernika and to throw bombs as a signal.
  17. 9, 39, or 43 aircraft participated in the bombing.
  18. 8 or 28 tons of bombs were dropped.
  19. Gernika was bombed at 1,500, 2,300, 3,500, 3,600, and 3,800 meters of altitude.
  20. 71 percent of the city was destroyed.
  21. 45 people died in the Andra Mari shelter.
  22. 126 people died in the bombing.
  23. Witnesses lie and exaggerate.
  24. We are not monsters…
  25. We are the real victims…
  26. The bombing of Gernika is a myth.
  27. The bombing of Gernika was not a crime.
  28. If it were not for Picasso…

29 & 30. Franco Savior, Franco Merciful, Franco Architect of Peace.

Epilogue. Passion for ignorance.


Reviewed in Italian, Spagna contemporanea, 2019, n. 55, pp. 221–256.

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