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Staying and passing through Spain

The reception in Spain varied according to each province and the detention facilities at its disposal. In provinces of Lleida and Huesca, escapees were first taken to the town where there were Civil Guard barracks and afterwards they would go to a county prison and then to a provincial prison. On the other hand, in Girona there was a reception camp in Figueres in addition to a provincial jail for women and the provincial hospice. In Navarra and the Basque Country, hotels in tourist towns of the coast and mountains were used.

That difference in treatment was also perceived at the time to proceed with Jewish families. It depended on the Civil Governor of the moment that they were dispersed or, on the contrary, allowed to continue together during their stay in Spain.

Allied soldiers with graduation were treated in a special way. Those belonging to the army were sent to Jaraba, while the airmen enjoyed an exclusive treatment, staying in hotels and taken to Alhama de Aragon, where they had a more placid stay.

Among the county prisons, that one in Sort must be highlighted. About three thousand escapees from the crossings of Pallars Sobirà and Val d'Aran were imprisoned there. This high number of captured contrasts with just over 500 detainees in places where, theoretically, there should be a greater influx of evasions, such as Jaca, in the Pyrenees of Huesca, and Seu d'Urgell, due to the proximity to the Principality of Andorra. We think that the role of evasion networks in these two border routes, presumably quite the busiest high mountain passes in Pallars, had much to do in this lower number of arrests, and thanks to its performance many of those who penetrated through this area managed to cross the Iberian Peninsula without being discovered.

As regards the passing through Spain, if there was a group of refugees who benefited from an organized reception, this was the Jew, especially thanks to the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

The JDC was created in 1914 to help Palestinian Jews during World War I. When war finalized, it kept assisting Jews from countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, and when World War II broke out it helped thousands to flee Germany and Austria. When Germans entered in France in 1940, it moved its offices to Lisbon, from where the flight of thousands of Jews through Spain was coordinated.

Until 1942 there were unofficial representatives in Spain but since that year a permanent representation was set up in Barcelona and Madrid.

In Madrid, Samuel Levy was responsible for resolving the plight of the Jews at the concentration camp in Miranda de Ebro, while Samuel Sequerra in Barcelona was established as the official delegate of the Portuguese Red Cross to coordinate aid to Jewish refugees.

From the Hotel Bristol, located in Barcelona, and with the help of a highly organized team, he handled all the vicissitudes suffered by the Jews in their stay in Catalonia and also helped the inmates in concentration camps and in the rest of the country. When he learned of the arrest of a Jew, he would demand to free him and transfer him to Barcelona to be hosted in one of the agreed hostels while efforts to his departure from Spain were coordinated.

On the other hand, the performance of the British Consulate in Barcelona should also be highlighted. Its employees integrated into the Intelligence Service were capital to carry out the tasks arising from the activity of evasion networks and support to refugees.