April 26, 1937: The city of Guernica is bombed.

Immortalized by Pablo Picasso’s iconic painting, this devastating attack on the small Basque town of Guernica was launched by the joint forces of Nazi Germany’s volunteer unit, the Condor Legion, and its Italian Fascist equivalent, the Legionary Air Force. The bombing was most significant in that it was not meant to target military or industrial centers, but Spanish civilians, in the hope that the destruction would break morale and resistance - making it one of the first examples of “terror bombing”. The operation, entitled “Rügen”, also provided the two-year-old Luftwaffe the opportunity to test the destructive techniques it would later use across the rest of Europe during World War II.

The bombing almost completely razed Guernica to the ground, and it left an estimated half of the city’s 5,000 inhabitants dead or injured. Although not as explosive or bloody as later bombings of Tokyo and Dresden, the bombing of Guernica remains the most lingering event of the oft-overlooked but no less significant Spanish Civil War. 

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