The Bombing of Granollers

On May 31st 1938 five planes from the Italian airforce, governed at that time by a fascist dictator friendly to Franco, flew from Mallorca and up to Granollers.

At 9.05am they dropped their bombs over the city centre. Several hundred people were killed and many many more were injured. Buildings in the centre of the city were destroyed including the medieval market the Porxada.  At that time of day there were a lot of people out and about – going to work, going to school, shopping. Due to the civil war there was food rationing and people had to queue for hours to get milk and bread and other necessities.

Imagine a busy morning in Granollers, the streets full of life and bustle, the sounds of conversations in the milk queue, the normal comings and goings of a Tuesday morning.  Most of the people were women and children – many men were away at war.  The swifts are calling just as they do now, flying high around the church spire and dipping and swooping over the rooftops.

Then the planes flew over. For one minute, one long minute, there was the sound of explosions, buildings crashing, people screaming.  The planes then turned and flew back to their base in Mallorca and Granollers was left in devastation.

When I walk into town every day I see the signs on the ground marking where each bomb fell. They are very close to our home.Image

We have a letter written a few days after the bombing from a father to his son who was down at the Ebre in the Republican Army fighting Franco’s troups. There follows an explanation rather than a translation – I don’t understand all that is in the letters and can’t read all the writing. I just give you the general gist in English below.



Granollers 5 of June 1938

Dear Son, You can’t imagine how happy we were to have the visit from Torres (a soldier friend)  and to hear that you are well

Here there is no cinema, or dances, all seems like a desert, everybody staying at home. On top of the bank they have put a siren which has sounded twice, once at 2am and the other at 1.30 yesterday which felt like we had death coming over us.

The day of the bombing Mama, Marti (the younger son) and auntie went to sleep at Can Jep, we made a refuge under the bed Marti said it’s a triumph and auntie said that if they kill her it’s all the same.

You know that they are saying there are more than 300 dead, countless wounded it was such bad luck that there were four queues of people, one waiting for the milk, another at the marineta, another for fish and the other for the beans (faves). We were inside the bank we didn’t know where we could go. The savings bank had a lot of dead because a bomb feel right in front of it and there were many people waiting outside for the newspaper. It was the time for taking the children to school . There were so many dead, Can Rusquelles, Can Margarit, Can Juan Puig, and many others.  Buildings – many were destroyed. Belenguera, Can Mariam, where the Tapies of the bank lived,…..the area around the Porxada pretty much obliterated, Can Font and three more houses, the mill at Cal Illa, the abatoir there and five more houses destroyed, the house of the widow Montana of Santa Elisabet, Cal Eglesias of the Placa de les Olles and Can Rubira………(and more and more)

(next part written by the son Marti. I wondered if the writing down of all the homes and people destroyed was too much and he had to ask Marti to continue?)

‘luckily we had nothing happen to us….. because I was tired and Mother called me late I went to get the milk from (another place)’

It is very raw reading a first hand account of the bombing. And then to remember it all happened again the following year before Franco’s troups finally entered Granollers on 28th January 1939.  From then on until the restoration of democracy there was to be no public remembrance of this terrible day of death and destruction. Everyone had to keep silent about the trauma and the loss. I can’t imagine the day when Franco’s army arrived – how did people cope with the ongoing trauma of the bombing and then to have to squash down those feelings and memories, keeping them safe only in the deepest privacy of their hearts and homes.  And then many years later, how would you find ways to express and heal all that went before?

The 31st of May is now a day of remembrance and commemoration in Granollers with a strong emphasis on the need to work for peace and to never forget what happens when humans turn to violence and war.

The Granollers manifesto expresses it like this

El 31 de maig de 1938, Granollers va patir un terrible bombardeig que restà gravat per sempre en el record de les persones que el visqueren, com també en la memòria col·lectiva de la ciutat.
Nosaltres, ciutadans i ciutadanes del món, reunits a Granollers, vila oberta a la pau, no volem que s’oblidin aquests fets. Expressem el nostre compromís ferm de treball per una cultura de pau, transmetent a les noves generacions la preservació de la memòria i la mirada crítica enfront la violència i les guerres. Ens comprometem a no oblidar els fets tràgics que vam viure i a treballar per tal que mai més tornin a produir-se atacs sobre la població civil, ni aquí ni enlloc.
Reivindiquem el paper de les persones, dels pobles i de les ciutats en la construcció de la pau. Volem tenir-hi un paper actiu i ens comprometem a treballar per fer de les nostres ciutats un espai on prevalguin els valors de la convivència, el diàleg, l’educació i la resolució pacífica dels conflictes.


What’s that funny smell?

Last night between 11pm and midnight I noticed a strange smell coming into the house from the patio. It’s not the first time this has happened, usually at night. Once I was taking my dog out to the plaça for her last walk and we had to hurry home because the smell was so strong that I thought one of the nearby chemical factories had broken a leak. We rang the police to report it but heard no more. Yesterday it was strong but not quite so bad as on the other occasion. Strong enough to make us close the doors and windows though and even after only ten minutes of breathing it in I had a metallic taste at the back of my throat.  In the early hours of the morning I woke up with the smell still wafting around my nose. I closed the bedroom door and windows and it stopped. For god’s sake! What is it? It is worrying. Granollers is in a valley with the river Congost running through, slowly making its way down to Barcelona and the sea. Along the river banks are many large factories, some of them petro-chemicals,  and in the past the waters were polluted by industrial waste. Now there is more control and the river again has fish and bird life. People walk and run along the pathes on either side. Usually the air feels fine to breathe but we all know there is pollution you cannot see or feel. I don’t want to sound paranoid but it’s just this funny smell….it comes and it goes Olive tree above Granollers The smell is surely a sign of something going on – but I don’t know what. I have never heard anyone mention it nor seen discussions in the local paper about the need to monitor closely the surrounding factories. What I do know is that there is a chemical alert siren which is regularly tested and you are supposed to know the difference between a drill and the real thing. When it is real you are told to close and seal windows and doors and stay inside.  A few months ago the siren started and as we hadn’t received any notices of a test we raced around closing things down. Then I looked outside and everyone was walking around as normal, ignoring the siren and not falling down dead on the street. So we also just got on with life. But how would we all know if it was serious? There is also the dark fine dust that coats all surfaces in our houses. Every day when I wipe around the bath the cloth picks up a black stain. I have been told that in the past Granollers was so full of factories that it still sits in a cloud of textile particles. Really? I think I will have to look into it. I want to know what the smell means?  Where does it come from?  Who is monitoring the levels of pollutants that are blowing around the town?  And has that dust been analysed and pronounced harmless? If anyone knows more about this or has any suggestions about what I can do to get information then please do let me know. Anything I find out, I will let you know