20 Apr, 2021 @ 08:45
1 min read

Discover the secret air raid shelters that kept Barcelona residents safe from bombs during Spanish Civil War

Barcelona air raid shelters map
Barcelona air raid shelters map

Barcelona has rediscovered more than 1,000 air raid shelters which were used during the Spanish Civil War.

The city council has now produced an interactive website in English, Spanish and Catalan, to show where the shelters are in modern day Barcelona.

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Map showing location of shelters in black and bomb damage in red.

Throughout 1936-1939 civil war, the city was bombed by the force of General Francisco Franco as well as by the Italian and German air forces which supported the uprising by nationalist forces against the Republican government.

Over 20 years, specialists as well as residents of Barcelona, have helped piece together where the shelters were across the city.

In photographs from the time, the website reconstructs what life was like for the people who feared for their lives as the bombs fell on the city.

After Barcelona fell to the forces of Franco, Britain faced a similar threat from the air in 1940 during the Battle of Britain.

“I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us but I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it, like the brave men of Barcelona,” said Winston Churchill in 1940.

The project also recounts how the community worked together to build the shelters.

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Work inside a shelter in Barcelona

“Ten months of experience in Catalonia means we should unify all the efforts of the public and private bodies in the altruistic cause of saving lives from the fascist shrapnel,” wrote Lluis Companys, the Catalan regional president, in 1937.

After the conflict was over, the victorious General Franco built over 700 shelters for his troops across the Pyrenees because he feared that the Allied forces which defeated Hitler might try to attack Spain.

While Spain did not take part in the Second World War, Franco was sympathetic to the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

“Barcelona’s air raid shelters were built by the citizens or the administration with the object of protecting against the brutal bombardment during the civil war,” said Jordi Rabassa, the city councillor for Historical Memory.

Scene after the bombing of the cases barates in Bon Pastor, Barcelona on 29 May 1937. Biblioteca Nacional de España.

“(They) are part of our heritage and collective memory and have become symbols of popular self-organisation, resistance and struggle.”

The council has invited people to contribute towards the project if they know information about shelters which have been built over or lost.

To visit the project, CLICK HERE


Graham Keeley

Graham Keeley is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona, who covers Spain for The Independent, the i paper, Reuters, the Sunday Times among others.
Follow him on Twitter @grahamkeeley or email [email protected]

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