During the Second World War (1939-1944), thousands of Jews crossed the Pyrenees, fleeing from the persecution to which they were subject in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Holocaust affected six million European Jews. Many of those who escaped from Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and France crossed the mountain passes of the Lleida Pyrenees.
In these epic escapes, they had to evade surveillance on either, side of the French-Spanish frontier, defy the harsh climatic conditions, which included year-round snows, and overcome the rugged terrain along the way. Their objective was to seek refuge far from Europe. Until 1943 those escaping were mainly Families who had initially taken refuge in France and who now sought to escape persecution by French Vichy regime.
In 1944, they were mainly young Jews, young children who had been hidden in France by Jewish organisations and children whose parents had been deported to extermination camps. For all of these refugees, the Lleida Pyrenees were the penultimate obstacle separatng them from freedom.
The “Perseguits i salvats” (Persecuted and Saved) project highlights the value of the cross border spaces and paths of the Pyrenees as cultural and ‘historic memory routes, with the aim of publicising their role as escape routes for those fleeing persecution during the Second World War. At the same time, it also promotes the values of helping others and the solidarity that the local people of these territories showed towards those refugees.
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