Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for April 26th, 2017

Guernica 80 Years On

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th April, 2017

GuernicaEighty years ago today, German planes bombed the Basque town of Guernica in support of General Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish civil war. For the Nazis, it was an experiment: to see if Blitzkrieg would work. And it did, incinerating not only the buildings but a sizable part of the defenceless population in a firestorm. It would be another two years before the start of the Second World War (which Spain basically sat out), but the Guernica atrocity served as a warning to Europe of what was to come. Hitler’s Germany would eventually be defeated, after killing directly or indirectly many millions of people, including the six million Jews as well as other minorities who perished in the Holocaust. But fascism itself was not defeated; in continued in Spain until Franco’s death in the mid-1970s, in Portugal and for a while in Greece. The restoration of functioning democracy enabled these southern European states integrate into what has become the European Union, but military dictatorships continued to flourish in Central and South America and parts of Africa. Most of those countries are now also multi-party democracies. But one should not be lulled into a false sense of security that the monster of fascism has been slain. It is like a virus that can lie undetected for years before taking hold of the body politic once more. The rise of nationalism in many parts of Europe is an unnerving warning that people can be talked into supporting demagogues, even when they are spouting lies. Hungary is particularly worrying, but it is not alone. And just as the Nazis scapegoated Jews for the economic ills of the Weimar Republic so now populist politicians on both sides of the English Channel are blaming refugees, Muslims and sometimes foreigners in general for their societies’ shortcomings. Decent people need to speak out about this. And as we commemorate the horrors of Guernica we should remember that it is not just a lesson from the past but a warning about a possible future.

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