By Vincent West
GUERNICA, Spain (Reuters) – Elderly survivors of a savage air raid that destroyed the Spanish town of Guernica in 1937 met relatives of the attacking German soldiers on Wednesday in a gesture of peace and reconciliation.
Exactly 80 years ago, German supporters of Francisco Franco’s nationalist forces struck the market town, killing as many as 1,600 people in one of the first targeted attacks on civilians in modern history.
Luis Iriondo, who was a teenager at the time and now aged 94, said he now forgave Adolf Hitler’s forces and compared Guernica’s victims to those killed by Allied bombs at Dresden in World War Two.
“We need to forget the enmity there was at that time and seek peace,” Iriondo told Reuters. “But I was fourteen then and if I had had a gun I would have shot them!”
As part of anniversary celebrations in the northern Basque town, Iriondo met the descendants of two German soldiers who had served in the Condor Legion which attacked Guernica.
Dieprand von Richthofen, a distant cousin of the legion’s leader Wolfram von Richthofen, and Karl Benedikt von Moreau, whose uncle was a pilot, chatted with Iriondo in French.
“We are just horrified by what happened here,” von Moreau told Reuters. “The consequence of what happened should be that we take responsibility and we say no more of these catastrophes, no more war, no more violence.”
(Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Gareth Jones)