Fifth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Hondarribia, Spain 1994

The Day Before the Conference: The Trip to Gernika

Hondarribia, Euskadi, Spain, 17th September 1994

Sitting in the beautiful hostel, third floor, with a wonderful view of the bay, as a participating interpreter of the Fifth Conscience and Peace Tax Conference, I want to confess that I love this Basque Country which I'm visiting by the first time.

Two days ago we arrived in Urnieta, another place, and we were put up in a seminary of the Salesianos. We went sightseeing by bus one whole day: altogether several dozen hosts and foreigners (mainly from the North, but also including one unforgettable Palestinian pharmacist, one Iraqi,...)

I was immediately impressed by the neoclassic temple called ‘Casa de Juntas’ (meeting house) with its stained glass roof. I admire this people's choice of a growing tree as their emblem (A friend from California told me that in his country there are living trees which are 4,000 years old). Yes, indeed, a tree, and this Basque tradition precedes our modern ecological awareness. Trees are important in mythology. The Basque people is incredibly old, in fact 14,000 years old. Christ lived 60 generations ago, Buddha 80. If we take 30 generations per millennium, then they settled in Europe 420 generations back. At that time the first Americans were only just on their way to their later home continent and had begun to cross the Bering straits: the Indios were still Asians.

We went to the museum of Gernika=Guernica to see evidence of its intentional, even wanton destruction during the civil war. My German countrymen, disguised as Legion Condor airmen, here did a dress rehearsal for the later carpet bombings in the World War. In the end it was our own Dresden which was bombed.

On the floor above we saw Picasso's sketches for his well-known painting Guernica. I noted (and I do not remember having seen this trait of Picasso in his later works) that he was compassionate even with horses who in his painting represent the suffering of the 300 human beings who died in the air raids (Here the bull represented brutality, he noted).

Ten years ago a translation client surprised me confiding that he had been a pilot in the Legion Condor. He said the city was a military target and therefore the bombing was justified. He said what Franco's propaganda wanted: that the civil losses had never happened or that they were justified or at least they have been not intended. But they were.

The purpose of our meeting of conscience and war tax resisters was to make such atrocities impossible in future. We are not tax evaders, we want to give Caesar what is Caesar's, however on our conditions: we pay the percentage of our taxes we calculate to be earmarked for arms purchases into a trust account to be released on the assurance of the Government that our tax money will be used for development purposes. When there is no money, the sophisticated weapons simply cannot be purchased. Unfortunately, playful people and cruel people are sometimes the same people, and they cannot imagine that was is fun to them is pain to others. Aviators cannot put themselves in the shoes of anguished people on the ground who for them are just precision targets to be wiped out with bombs.

The only solution is to deny deadly weapons to people who are eager to fight.

Let those who need to fight use their fists or use the less harmful methods rediscovered by our generation.

Thank you for your hospitality, dear non-violent Basque organizers.


Konrad Borst

Main Page for Hondarribia