Durango, Seventy Years After

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Not many people have been to the small Basque town of Durango. Not many people have even heard of the place. But that does not stop history from making Durango a somewhat special place.

Durango is a small town in Bizkaia, in Northern Spain in the Basque country, which came to fame for suffering in a particular way from the Spanish Civil War under El Caudillo, Francisco Franco.

The Bombing of Durango was the first attack in Europe against a civilian population. The town was bombed and air raided by Fascist firepower, as much from the air as from the ground, with the objective of undermining the Basques’ morale and to cause maximum damage to the town’s population.

Seventy years ago today, on 31 March 1937, Durango’s population suffered a terrible attack, which, according to sources, was led by Franco’s Italian allies and their Italian warplanes. The death toll reached at least 353 people, although more died later from injuries. In the chapel of Santa Susana alone, fourteen nuns died, and in the church of Santa María, bombs killed the priest who was celebrating mass, Padre Morilla, as well as numerous parishioners.

Although Durango possessed a significant arms factory, it is said that Franco’s military objective was nothing other than to terrorize the civil population of the hinterland of Republicans, which constituted a new element in modern military tactics already employed by the Generalissimo against Madrid and other cities in the South of Spain. During the following days, three successive attacks on the town left the arms factory intact, but caused yet more civilian deaths.

Of course, the fate of another Basque town, Gernika, is better known to us because of Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso’s infamous painting, Guernica.

More about Guernica, the painting and Gernika, the town and its history, under ‘07/70’ in a few weeks’ time.

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