Tom Goldstein,"Nazi Germany and the Spanish Civil War:
Continuity in Hitler's Foreign Policy"

9

mistakenly attacked by a Soviet bomber who thought it was a Nationalist cruiser. Hitler cried for vengeance and ordered the shelling of the port town of Almería, killing 24 civilians. As a result of the Deutschland incident, Germany and Italy walked out of the Non-Intervention conference, despite the fact that the British cruiser Hunter had been hit by a German mine earlier in May and no major repercussions occurred. The second incident occurred on June 15, 1937 when the German cruiser Leipzig claimed a submarine fired upon it, although no real evidence existed to back up its claim. Nonetheless, Hitler demanded international naval action be taken against the Republic.17 Yet these incidents were far from the most notorious things the Germans did in Spain.

Perhaps the most infamous incident concerning German involvement in the Spanish Civil War was the use of explosives and firebombs on the Basque city of Guernica on April 26, 1937. As part of a massive Nationalist campaign to split the Republican controlled area of Spain in half, the Condor Legion in spring 1937 launched an attack on the Basque province of northeastern Spain. Aiming to prevent Republican troops from retreating through Guernica to their strongpoint at Bilbao, the Condor Legion attacked and destroyed 70% of Guernica. The attacks came in the middle of the day when many people were at the city's market, and hundreds of civilians were killed as a result.18

There has always been a debate as to whether the civilians were attacked on purpose or whether, like the Germans claimed at the time, bad weather and wind had caused their bombs to miss their primary target - a bridge outside the city. Historian Peter Monteath explains:


17. Ibid., 380-381.
18. Peter Monteath, "Guernica Reconsidered: Fifty Years of Evidence." War & Society, Volume 5, no.1 (May 1987): 93-100.
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