| CAT | ESP | ENG |
Persecuted and Saved
/ Chased and free / The situation of Europe
The situation of Europe

In 1935, after years of an active policy of discrimination against Jewish people, the so-called Nuremberg Laws were adopted in Germany. Legalization and institutionalization of discrimination in Germany against Jewish people and other groups considered impure were defined by these laws. Their aim was to preserve the purity of the Aryan race by preventing contact between Germans and other groups.

Due to the increasing discrimination and limitations, many Jews started to leave Germany and other European countries concerned by the German occupation and went to other countries seeking the opportunity to live, work and prosper.

Even before the invasion of Poland started on 1st September 1939 and which led to the Second World War, Germany had begun the occupation of territories, Austria at first and Czechoslovakia, Belgium and Holland later.

The German occupation of those territories accelerated the Jewish exodus to France, USA, South America and other destinations considered safer. Many Sephardic Jews went to Spain to benefit from a decree of Primo de Rivera, dated 1924, which granted Spanish citizenship to the Sephardic Jews.

Between 1939 and 1944, thousands of people crossed the Pyrenees towards Spain as a result of World War II to escape the Nazis or join the allied army in North Africa or England. As they did in the First World War and the recent Civil War, the Pyrenees acted as a place of flight. Again, the border became a place of refuge, a line separating death.

For refugees who came from the French Pyrenees, crossing the border meant to be safe from persecution and detention and more than a likely death in some cases.

This cross-border human flow did not stop until the summer of 1944, after the liberation of southern France by Allied army. Since then Germans trying to avoid falling into Allied hands were penetrating for a few years. In total, almost ten years of clandestine border crossing.

The Pyrenees became mountains of freedom, the quiet scene of a getaway in search of new personal goals.

But foreign refugees who arrived in Spain in World War years found a country that neither expected nor had sufficient resources to accommodate them and, despite not taking part in the war, felt a special sympathy for the Axis powers so much, so to send troops of the Blue Division to fight at its side.