Die spanische Allee
How a street in Berlin-Zehlendorf was named after the Guernica bombing
5 August 2013: I had just arrived in Berlin for the first time and had not yet found a flat to stay in. A friend who was travelling in Brazil offered to let me stay at his student residence. It was in Schlachtensee, located in the Berlin district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, in the south-west of the city. I got off the S-Bahn and started to walk slowly with my huge suitcase along the Breisgauer Strasse, between huge villas and a cobbled street that made the journey quite difficult. At a certain point I reached a crossroads and there it was: the Spanische Allee (Spanish Avenue). There was a sign overgrown by the grass that said 'Guernica Platz' (Gernika Square). At that moment a smile came to my face when I happened to come across that place unexpectedly. However, the history of Spanische Allee is a black spot in Germany's historical memory.
June 6, 1939: a podium rises from the crowd. In the centre, Hitler greets the Condor Legion, welcoming them after their participation in the Spanish War from 1936 to 1939. At his side is Hermann Göring, supreme commander of the Luftwaffe, the air force of the Third Reich. To the right of him is General Queipo de Llano (the Butcher of Seville) and a little further back is General Yagüe (the Butcher of Badajoz). In front of them the Condor Legion parades, responsible for countless bombings (Albacete, Jaén, Fabricona de Golpejar). But the best known is that of Gernika, whose number of victims oscillates between different historians, but which would have been several hundreds, as well as total devastation. In addition to the Condor Legion, soldiers from Franco's army walk before the eyes of Hitler and a large part of the Nazi General Staff. That day the Wannseestrasse in Zehlendorf was renamed Spanische Allee.
Recently, in the documentary "Franco on Trial" by Dietmar Post and Lucía Palacios, they interviewed Yagüe's daughter. María Eugenia Yagüe, shows a silver-framed portrait of Göring dedicated to her father, which he gave him during his visit to Berlin. In this documentary, María Eugenia Yagüe provides more information about the trip, as she highlights the fact that many Spanish soldiers went to Berlin. This clear alliance of Franco's national Catholicism with Nazism is nothing but "cordiality" for María Eugenia Yagüe. She ignores the fact that the coup d'état against the legitimate government of the Republic had the support of Italian fascism and German Nazism, both of which were necessary cooperators for Franco to win the war.
The official visit to Berlin paid by Ramón Serrano Suñer, Eugenio Espinosa de los Monteros and Antonio Sagardía Ramos, among others, was in September 1940. It came when the Nazi army had planted itself in the Pyrenees, just one month before Franco and Hitler met in Hendaye. It does not seem to be very casual or merely cordial. The photo of this Francoist diplomatic delegation next to Himmler (head of the SS) in the barracks of the SS Division Adolf Hitler, also in the Steglitz-Zehlendorf district in Lichterfelde, does not seem to be a mere formality. Today this barracks is precisely the one that keeps these photos, since it was reconverted into the Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive).
Returning to the Spanische Allee, it is surprising how this one has passed without any sorrow or glory during the de-nazification of Germany. It was not until 1998 that the Steglitz-Zehlendorf district council decided to name a street crossing Guernica Platz (Gernika Square). This was in a failed attempt to compensate the memory of the victims of the Nazi bombings in Spain. Guernica Platz is nothing more than the afore-mentioned crossroads with a grass hedge, which goes completely unnoticed by any passer-by, cyclist or driver. It is only marked with a small plaque next to a marquee at the 112 bus stop (which does not even bear the name of the square, but Krankenhaus Hubertus) that tells the story described here. Without a doubt, the alleged compensation is much less than a four kilometre long avenue that runs through half the district.
My life in Berlin has brought me back to live in Steglitz-Zehlendorf, now after I have become aware of this history not far from my home. As a resident of the district and as a Spanish citizen, I believe it is time to put an end to this historical shame. It damages the memory of so many people who perished under the weight of the bombs. It is a tribute to the Condor Legion and to Nazism in a country that shows itself to be scrupulous when it comes to historical memory and to erase all traces of the Nazi period. The name needs to be changed.
The change of name of the Spanische Allee is something that has been attempted before, but has so far been rejected. The last time it has been brought up for debate was on a motion by Die Linke (The Left), which submitted a motion on the occasion of the 80th anniversary for its re-dedication. However, on 30 October 2019 the Committee on Education and Culture rejected it. Di Linke and SPD voted in favour of the name change, while the CDU, AfD, FDP and - surprisingly, Die Grünen who always try to be careful and to appear anti-fascist - opposed it. This decision of the commission was ratified by the district plenary on November 13. However, we should not give up until justice is done for the victims of the Condor Legion.
Jaime Martínez Porro is a militant in Izquierda Unida Berlín and the LINKE Berlin Internationals.