Guernica, till 1876 capital of the Basque country, has been reduced to ruins by rebel planes of German make.
The bombardment, which lasted for three and a half hours on Monday afternoon, killed hundreds of the 10,000 inhabitants, and yesterday only a few of the buildings remained standing. Many of the ruins were still burning.
In Guernica itself it is not known how many hundreds of people - men, women, and children - have been killed; it may indeed never be known. The town is in ruins. The buildings left standing can be counted almost on the fingers of one had. Among them is, remarkably enough, the Basque Parliament building, with its famous oak tree.
The church of St. John was destroyed, but the principal church, St. Mary's, is almost intact, except for the chapter-house and part of the tower. The convent of Santa Clara, which was being used as a hospital, was destroyed, with many of its inmates. Another small hospital, with 42 beds, was completely wiped out together with its 42 wounded occupants. Yet a third hospital was wrecked with many victims.
The raid occurred on market-day when the town was full of peasants who had come into sell their produce. The bombers, all of them said to be German, came over in waves of seven at a time. Many of the people who raced desperately for the open fields were systematically pursued and machine-gunned from the air by swooping fighters.
The survivors spent a night of horror sleeping where and if they could, awaiting with resignation their evacuation today. Since early this morning the roads leading to the rear have been thronged with long streams of peasants whose whole remaining possessions are dumped on ox-carts.
Today I visited what remains of the town. I was taken to the entrance of a street like a furnace which no one had been able to approach since the raid. I was shown a bomb shelter in which over fifty women and children were trapped and burned alive. Everywhere is a chaos of charred beams, twisted girders, broken masonry, and smouldering ashes, with forlorn groups of inhabitants wandering in search of missing relatives.
I picked up an incendiary shell which failed to explode. It was made of aluminum, weighed nearly two pounds, and was liberally stamped with German eagles.
Guernica, like the other Basque country towns, was absolutely defenceless, and was provided with neither anti-aircraft guns nor planes.
General Mola, who is in charge of the rebel offensive on the Basque front, is apparently trying to carry out his threat "to destroy the whole of Biscay Province" if the Basques do not immediately surrender. When he made the threat early in April he added, "We have the means of carrying out our intentions." Yesterday the Basque Government alleged that Germans were piloting the German bombers that carried out the raid.
It is reported that General Mola has now warned the Basque Government that he will raze Bilbao to the ground unless the town surrenders. But the Government states that after the destruction of Guernica surrender of the Basque capital is less than ever possible. A report that the Argentine Ambassador at Hendaye had been asked to act as intermediary to arrange for the surrender is denied.
It seems, in fact, that the vicious bombing of Guernica will stiffen the Basque resistance. The Basques were last night claiming that the rebel offensive in the region of Durango had been "brilliantly repulsed" and that the rebels were being held back form the Eibar sector to the coast.
Senor Aguirre, the Basque President, last night published a decree reorganising the regular army into battalions, brigades, and divisions under a new commander-in-chief. Under another decree all industries catering for the needs of war are militarised and mobilised.