The Guernica Bombing and its Message for Today

This past week, the Basque town of Guernica recounted the sorrow and devastation inflicted 80 years ago. On that fateful late afternoon of April 26th 1937, German and Italian aircrafts, at the urging of their ally, General Franco and his right-wing Nationalists, unleashed their bombs on unsuspecting civilians.

Just nine months before, Franco had led a coup against Spain’s Republican government dragging the country into a civil war. The Nationalists eventually triumphed and Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years.

For a long time, the word Guernica stirred powerful emotions among Spaniards and Europeans who witnessed the destruction wreaked by Fascism. It was a crime against humanity that shocked the world, and was later immortalized by Picasso’s famous expressionist mural. However, the 80th anniversary has received rather scant attention in the US. In my classes last week, I tried to explain to my students why Guernica should remain historically relevant to citizenry across the globe.

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Student Spotlight: Erma Nezirevic

Erma was born in Bosnia, raised in Croatia, and moved to Idaho as a refugee at the age of 14. She graduated with a double BA in Spanish and Social Science from Boise State University. She earned her MA in Spanish from the University of Oregon, and in 2012, she began her PhD in Spanish at the University of Minnesota. Erma is interested in issues of mass violence, collective memory and nationalism in contemporary Spain. She has been involved with the Holocaust, Genocide, and Mass Violence interdisciplinary graduate group since its inception and has served as the group coordinator and Research Assistant for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Erma’s current research examines Spanish cultural representations of the wars in the former Yugoslavia that took place in the 1990s. Her work is comparative, and based on the observed parallel experiences the two countries have gone through during the twentieth century including dictatorships, civil wars, and struggles over memory and transitions to democracy. As a literary and cultural scholar, Erma studies the way Spanish authors, journalists and photographers approach the Balkan atrocity as a symbolic reliving and reflection on old Spanish traumas such as the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and Franco’s fascist regime. She will be defending her dissertation this semester.