During the Second World War (1939-1944), thousands of Jews crossed the Pyrenees, fleeing from the persecution to which they had been subjected in Nazi-occupied Europe. 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 hash climatic conditions, which included year-round snows, and overcome the rugged terrain along the way.
L’Alt Urgell was the main escape route for refugees from the Principality of Andorra. The majority of Jews arrived on foot, walking through the mountains. One of these routes began at Sant Julià de Lòria and crossed the frontier via the Rabassa pass before heading on to Bescaran and Estamariu. From there, it went on to the Serra del Cadí or to La Seu d’Urgell. Some Jewish refugees managed to reach Barcelona with the help of evasion networks that had been set up in Andorra and the collaboration of numerous citizens from the local district, who also helped to save them. Between 1941 and 1942, some of those captured were returned to France, but the majority were transferred to La Seu d’Urgell, where they were either locked up in the local prison, which was located in the former convent of Sant Domènec, or lodged in hotels. They were then driven to prisons in the city of Lleida. For all of these refugees, the Lleida Pyrenees were the penultimate obstacle separating them from freedom.