The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

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Title: Guernica bombed.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1937

Date shown: May 01, 1937

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: black and white photography

Storage place: Eyedea - Keystone website

Contact copyright: © Keystone / Eyedea - "reproduction and exploitation prohibited without prior written agreement from the agency" website

Picture reference: K002796

© Keystone / Eyedea - "reproduction and exploitation prohibited without prior written agreement from the agency"

Publication date: January 2005

Historical context

Offensive in northern Spain

In March 1937, fascist Italy, which was supporting General Franco's nationalist troops in Spain, decided to launch an offensive on Madrid from the northeast. It was on this occasion that the air force of the Italian Expeditionary Force and the Condor Legion, a unit

German military specially formed to intervene alongside the Spanish nationalists, carried out large-scale bombardments for the first time on Basque towns, including Guernica.

Image Analysis

Bombing of Guernica

A small town in the province of Biscay, Guernica was famous for its famous oak under which the Spanish monarchs promised, according to tradition, to respect Basque freedoms. The massive bombardment of this city by the Condor legion on April 26, 1937, had a great impact throughout the world, echoed not only by painters, Picasso in the lead, but also by photographers, as evidenced by this anonymous photograph of a ruined street in Guernica on May 1, 1937, after the Nazi bombings and the capture of the city by the nationalists. This shot emphasizes the devastating effects of the German attack. It is a city completely destroyed by bombs that awaits our eyes: buildings ripped open or in flames, electric cables torn off ... In the foreground, several corpses lie in the middle of the debris of the explosions. The vision of a stray dog, its tail down - the only sign of life in the middle of the devastated street - and the verticality of the composition, which reinforces the massive aspect of the ruined buildings, accentuate the dramatic character of the event. . Taken on the spot, this impressive image thus constitutes a direct testimony to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, showing the extent of the material and human damage caused by the intensive bombardments. In this regard, snapshots played an unprecedented documentary role in information about the Spanish Civil War, because for the first time in the history of photography the conflict was widely covered by photographers around the world. The photographers, who did not hesitate to mingle with the fighters, gave their images an emotional character. This new personal and committed vision of war, which paved the way for the modern practice of photojournalism, helped to question the very status of the photographic medium, considered until then as an exact and objective transcription of real facts.


Mass destruction and civil damage

This photograph of Guernica thus constitutes a human testimony on the destruction which occurred during the German air raids. Relentlessly launched on the city during the afternoon of April 26, the explosive and incendiary bombs completely destroyed the city center and left 1,654 dead and 889 injured. This unprecedented attack, for which nationalist propaganda blamed the Basques, for the first time caused significant civilian damage, which heralded that of World War II. For the Luftwaffe, this aerial intervention inaugurated a new strategy, and foreshadowed the murderous assaults of the German squadrons against the cities of Great Britain during the Battle of Britain of 1940.

  • Spain
  • war in spain
  • photography
  • city
  • aviation
  • bombing raid
  • destruction
  • civil war
  • Guernica
  • Franco (general)
  • Picasso (Pablo)
  • ruins


Pierre BROUÉ and Émile TEMINE, The Revolution and the Spanish Civil War, Paris, edition of Minuit, 1961 Exhibition catalog, The Spanish Civil War. Photographers for history, Paris, Hôtel de Sully, June 22 - September 23, 2001, Marval - MNAC, 2001 Guy HERMET, The Spanish Civil War, Paris, Seuil, 1989. Hugh THOMAS, History of the Spanish Civil War, 2 vol., R. Laffont, Paris, 1985.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The Spanish Civil War"

Video: Feature History - Spanish Civil War