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Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


L'oeuvre des defenseurs de la religion et de la civilisation. Photographies du bombardment de Barcelone, le 30 janvier 1938

[The work of the defenders of religion and civilization. Photographs of the bombardment of Barcelona, January 30, 1938]. . Imprimerie Cooperative Etoile Photochemical print, halftone; 50 x 32 cm

Throughout the Civil War, the city and province of Barcelona was one of the strongholds of Republican Spain after an initial attempt at an uprising by Nationalist sympathizers was defeated by a coalition of workers from the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) along with Catalan police. Aerial bombardment of the city and province began after May 1937 as Franco's forces approached from the north and the east. This initial bombardment was followed by sporadic raids that continued until the ultimate victory of Nationalist forces in Barcelona in February and March of 1939.

Early in 1938, Barcelona was subjected to a series of air raids. In response to these attacks, on January 6th, Indalecio Prieto y Tuero, a prominent socialist leader and head of the United Ministry of National Defense under Juan Negrín, proposed an end to the bombardment of rearguard towns and cities, such as Barcelona. His attempt was ultimately undermined by the lack of communication between military leaders in both Republican and Nationalist armies. The break in communication was evident in the Republican bombardments of Seville and Valladolid on January 26th with retaliatory air raids conducted by the Nationalists troops on Barcelona on January 28th in which 150 people were killed. On the Nationalist side, Franco had difficulty communicating with and controlling air raids conducted by the Italian military, which maintained three aerodromes on the island of Majora. On March 16th and March 18th, the Italian air force, apparently of its own accord, bombed Barcelona heavily resulting in 1,300 deaths and 2,000 injuries. Notably, Hugh Thomas quotes that the German ambassador in Salamanca described the effects of these bombing as "terrible. All parts of the city were affected. There was no evidence of any attempt to hit military objectives" (Thomas 806-807).

In contrast to the German ambassador's observation of the atrocity of the bombings, this poster quotes the official message, regarding the bombings of Barcelona, from one of the organizations associated with the Nationalist troops. The text reads:

The seditious G.Q.C of Salamanca has made [this statement] from their official communiqué the day after: "We have bombed the directive centers and command posts of Barcelona.

While the quote from the G.Q.C. claims that the targets in Barcelona were military targets, the artist of this poster has emphatically used photographs of dead children, presumably victims of the same bombing, to demonstrate the disconnect between the words of Nationalist officials and the real effects of air raids. Although it is not clear whether the images here are from the same effect described by the German ambassador above, the effects appear to be the same - the death of civilians, child and the destruction of non-military targets.

The poster exhibits the style of photomontage popular among approximately 11% of the posters produced in Republican Spain as estimated by Facundo Tomás, author of Los Carteles Valencianos. The author of the poster is unknown.

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