Spanish town marks Jewish underground railroad

Catalonian village marks fifth such route Jews used to escape Europe to neutral Spain during WWII

La Seu Vella cathedral in Lleida, Spain (CC BY 2.5 Hector Blanco de Frutos via Wikimedia Commons)
La Seu Vella cathedral in Lleida, Spain (CC BY 2.5 Hector Blanco de Frutos via Wikimedia Commons)

A town in northern Spain will commemorate the route taken by Jewish refugees during World War II, a Spanish newspaper reported Tuesday.

The town Lleida in the region of Catalonia will begin the process of demarcating points along one of the clandestine, mountainous routes Jews took escaping Nazi-dominated Europe into neutral Spain, according to a report in the Spanish daily Europa Press. Many trekked through the Pyrenees mountains along the French-Spanish border.

It is the fifth such route to be marked in the last year, after four of them were recognized and memorialized in 2014 by Lleida council president Joan Reñé and Israel’s ambassador to Madrid, Alon Bar. Those routes run the length of 151.6 kilometers in the Spanish provinces of Vall d’Arán, Pallars Sobirà, Alt Urgell, la Cerdanya and l’Alta Ribagorça.

Josep Calvet, a historian and author of the book “Escaping the Holocaust,” told Europa Press that Israelis in the tourism and travel industry were enthusiastic about the project.

“The project is highly valued on an academic and institutional level because it is bringing attention to points in history that are barely studied.”

[mappress mapid=”5136″]

Jews stayed at different stations along those routes into Spain, including hotels and private homes. Depending on the particular route, refugees were able to reach the Red Cross or the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Marking those points should help tour guides hoping to bring new groups of visitors to the area.

The regional tourism office has already received several inquiries about trips since last year, according to Europa Press.

The project is also partially responsible for the opening of a new direct route to the regional Lleida-Alguaire Airport from Tel Aviv, operated by the Israeli airline Arkia.

The project has garnered the support of the support of several countries, including Israel, France, Belgium, Poland, Argentina and Uruguay.

Spanish diplomats have been credited for extending protection to Sephardic Jews during World War II.

The late Sebastian de Romero Radigales was honored by Yad Vashem in 2013 for extending Spanish citizenship to certain Jews in Nazi-occupied territories.

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