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.

Vista general des del camí de Sant Cosme.  © Mas. Servei d'Audiovisuals de l'IEI.

Vista general des del camí de Sant Cosme.
© Mas. Servei d’Audiovisuals de l’IEI.

Aransa, Cerdanya

Camí de Mussa a Aransa (1924).
© Cèsar August Torras. Hostench.

Hundreds of these refugees secretly arrived in La Cerdanya from the Principality of Andorra, via the mountain passes of Claror, Perafita, La Portella and Vallcivera. At times, escaping Jews received help and support from evasion networks operating in Andorra and the aid of many local citizens. This allowed them to reach and take refuge in Barcelona after following routes along the rivers Segre and Llobregat or crossing the Serra del Cadí. The majority, however, were eventually captured and transferred to the prison of La Seu d’Urgell, from where they were then driven to the city of Lleida. For all of these refugees, the Lleida Pyrenees were the penultimate obstacle separating them from freedom.