The inevitable consequence of getting interested in something like the Spanish Civil War is that you end up reading a lot of stuff that can make your flesh creep. The accounts of interrogation centres set up by the Communists, and the masses of people shot by Franco’s men and thrown onto rubbish tips are not for the faint hearted.
I’ve read a number of accounts written by those who volunteered and fought for the Republic some of whom are pretty much unreconstructed Communists. In reading these works you expect a degree of bias, and that’s evident from the moment you open the book usually because the writer tells you so.
I’ve started to widen my reading now to look at those forces supporting Franco, and I started with the Osprey Elite volume on the Condor Legion. I often come away from studies of Nazi units feeling a bit grubby. There’s a school of thought that thinks it is okay to say “I abhor the politics of the SS, but they were one of the world’s finest fighting machines and they had nice uniforms”. Well, as our local wargaming vicar says “Everything before the but is b*ll*cks”. You can’t divorce the SS that fought in the front line from those that systematically rounded up and executed those they felt were racially inferior.
I wasn’t expecting anything similar from this book. It was published in 2006, and was written by a Spaniard who is now in his mid-50s. It is a bit gushing, and is rather overly obsessive about how smart Germans look when they’re in uniform but that you sort of expect.
However, it is the account of the bombing of Guernica that stands out as being more than a little apologist for the Nazis who went to fight for Franco.
According to this book Guernica was not an intentional terror bombing raid, but was intended to knock out a bridge. It also suggests casualties were closer to 300 than the 1,654 claimed by the Basque government at the time.
Looking at the evidence the latter claim is supportable and this is confirmed in subsequent studies. However, the former claim is open to serious challenge, and honestly falls in the same sort of areas as David Irving’s claims about Nazi Death Camps.
The raid on Guernica was not preceded by any reconnaissance, and the bomb loads included incendiaries. The waves of bombers were supported by fighters that straffed the roads leading out of the town. Richthofen’s order specifically refer to the bombing of the streets as well as the bridge.
So all in all I would say that the book in this respect is inaccurate, if not in fact misleading. The facts as we now know them are not difficult to check, and anyone editing a work covering such a controversial incident should have been able to challenge the author’s assertions. This isn’t a case of sloppy research of a lack of contemporary resources (as per for example the Osprey on Kadesh), this is a deliberate piece of political revisionism.
This is the most overt piece of apologist writing in the book. Elsewhere there are numerous remarks along the lines of the Germans were only there because the Russians were, and that Franco and the Generals had a legitimate case for overthrowing the elected Government of Spain.
How much difference does it make? Difficult to say. Ospreys are bought by a wide range of people within the hobby. Some, like me and others that I know, buy them, accepting the limitations and enjoy the pictures. For others they’re often the only “research” they do. Draw you own conclusions.