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.
Hundreds of these refugees reached the Val d’Aran via the Pont de Rei customs office or by crossing the mountain passes that connect this area with the French departments of Haute-Garonne and Ariège. Some managed to reach L’AltaRibagorça via the Port de Vielha pass, with the intention of then seeking refuge in Barcelona. The majority, however, were captured and transferred to the prison of Vielha and then driven to other prisons in the city of Lleida. The drive from Aran to Lleida took many of them through the Bonaigua pass, but others were forced to walk through the Vielha tunnel, which was then in the process of being built, before being taken to Vilaller and then on to Pont de Suert. From there, they were sent to Lleida. In some cases, this journey was direct, while in others, it involved a stop at Tremp. For all of these refugees, the Lleida Pyrenees were the penultimate obstacle separating them from freedom.