Eth Pònt de Rei
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 Vall d’Aran was one of the main entry routes for refugees from the French departments of Haute-Garonne and Ariège. The customs office of Pont de Rei became a point of arrival for those seeking to enter Spain with all their papers in order. After passing the police control, they left Aran and headed for the city of Barcelona from where they hoped a ship would take them to the country that they wished to emigrate to. However, from the middle of 1940 onwards, pressure from Germany resulted in the Spanish government refusing to accept even those carrying passports with entry visas. From then on, it was necessary for Jews to escape Nazi-controlled territory via mountain passes and many of those caught were deported to France via Pont de Rei. The majority were captured and transferred to the prison of Vielha and then driven to other 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 on their journey to freedom.