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Dijous  13.02.2014  16:05

Autor/s: Ben Ramage / Marta Lluvich

Project honors thousands of Jews who braved Catalan Pyrenees to escape Holocaust

20,000 Jews sought refuge from the Nazis in the Catalan Pyrenees


The Lleida Provincial Council is promoting a project entitled ‘Persecuted and Saved’ that aims to identify and mark the principal paths through the Catalan Pyrenees taken by 80,000 fugitives, 20,000 of whom were Jewish, in order to escape the Nazi horror during the Holocaust. They will also show the prisons and concentration camps set up to hold those who were caught. The project has already received a good deal of interest from Israel, with Alon Bar, Ambassador of Israel to Spain, visiting the key sites. Furthermore, Walter Wasercier, CEO of Israel’s principal airline, EL-AL, and Joan Reñé, President of Lleida’s Provincial Council, have met in order to discuss setting up weekly chartered flights between Israel and Lleida-Alguaire Airport.

Reñé claims that the project is an opportunity to “recover the historical memory and publicize the little-known events that occurred here during the Holocaust.”  Bar summarized the importance of the project with a Hebrew saying, “to save a soul is to save an entire world”. He also expressed thanks to the Catalan people, many of whom risked their lives to help save Jews and other refugees who were fleeing from Nazi barbarism.

A chance for Jewish people to find their ‘roots’

Bar believes that many Jewish people may find their roots while exploring the sites that their relatives used to escape tyranny and certain death. Over 20,000 Jewish refugees are believed to have passed through the Pyrenees, often taking the harshest and most difficult routes in order to avoid capture by Nazi soldiers patrolling the area.

Better Catalan understanding

Reñé also believes the project is a good chance for Catalans to better understand and appreciate the history of the area and the role that their parents and grandparents played by helping the starving and freezing survivors that made it over the mountains.