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.
The Val d’Aran was one of the main entry points for refugees. Hundreds of people arrived at Canejan following the different paths that led from the French department of Haute-Garonne. In 1943 alone, about 500 refugees were detained by the Guardia Civil, many of whom were Jews. At times, escaping Jews received help and support from evasion networks and the solidarity of many Aranese citizens. Some managed to cross the Iberian Peninsula and to reach Portugal without being detained, but the majority were captured and transferred to the prison of Vielha and then driven to prisons in the city of Lleida. Others were allowed to stay at hotels in Les and Vielha. For all of these refugees, the Lleida Pyrenees were the penultimate obstacle separating them from freedom.