Source PBS.org – April 26, 1937, For over three hours, twenty-five or more of Germany’s best-equipped bombers, accompanied by at least twenty more Messerschmitt and Fiat Fighters, dumped one hundred thousand pounds of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the village of Guernica, slowly and systematically pounding it to rubble.
Those trying to escape were cut down by the strafing machine guns of fighter planes. “They kept just going back and forth, sometimes in a long line, sometimes in close formation. It was as if they were practicing new moves. They must have fired thousands of bullets.” (eyewitness Juan Guezureya) The fires that engulfed the city burned for three days. Seventy percent of the town was destroyed. Sixteen hundred civilians – one third of the population – were killed or wounded.
News of the bombing spread like wildfire.
Guernica had served as the testing ground for a new Nazi military tactic – blanket-bombing a civilian population to demoralize the enemy. It was wanton, man-made holocaust.
Picasso is stunned by the stark black and white photographs of the tragedy. Appalled and enraged, Picasso rushes through the crowded streets to his studio, where he quickly sketches the first images for the mural he will call Guernica.