Material destruction and death toll
The city center, an area less than one square kilometer, was totally razed. Over 85 percent of the buildings—a total of 271 edifices—were completely destroyed, and only one percent were not affected by the bombing. The incendiary bombs started a fire that could not be put out for several days. In line with the concept of terror bombing, the weapons factories and the Errenteria bridge, the only strategic objectives in town, were not touched by the bombs or the machine-gunning.
The Basque government registered 1,654 deaths. The mayor of Gernika at the time, Jose Labauria, further stated that 450 additional people had lost their lives in the Andra Mari shelter. Together, these make up a minimum of 2,000 deaths. Father Eusebio Arronategi, who, like Labauria, was in Gernika during the bombing and the following days (helping with the rescue effort and identifying the corpses), said that he saw "thousands of his fellow citizens suffocated, killed, and injured." Forty eyewitnesses, including all the international reporters who came to Gernika, seconded these figures. Based on the figure of 100 deaths, proclaimed by the rebel authorities in a 1938 report, several authors today still defend that, indeed, no more than 100 to 300 people died in Gernika. However, there is no piece of evidence that supports those numbers, and every single eyewitness who testified in 1937 mentioned more than 1,000 deaths.
However, we can only know that the deaths were more than 2,000. The total number of fatalities is difficult to ascertain because the more than 60,000 m3 of rubble would not be removed from the city center until the end of 1941. The Franco regime never officially recorded any deaths and in fact tried and managed partially to eliminate the records prepared by the Basque authorities, thus erasing even the memory of the victims.