La Seu d’Urgell
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 the Jewish refugees from the Principality of Andorra who followed the mountain paths that led to what is now the municipality of Valls de Valira. Their aim was to reach Barcelona either by crossing the Serra del Cadí or from La Seu d’Urgell. In many cases, they received help from evasion networks that had been set up in Andorra and with the collaboration of numerous citizens from the local district, who also helped to save them. However, the majority were captured and 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 such as the El Mundial and El Andria. The Sant Hospital also took in Jews who arrived there suffering from frostbite, physical exhaustion and/or broken limbs as a result of accidents in the mountains. 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.