Museum of Exile La Jonquera
What better day to visit the recently opened Museum of Exile in the border town of La Jonquera than on Catalan National Day where hundreds of thousands of political refugees are commemorated as they fled Franco's fascist Spain after losing the civil war in 1939.
The museum is full of pictures, drawings, news reports and films of the last days of the Republican government in Spain as Franco's troops swept all before them and the subsequent fleeing across the border, over the Pyrenees mountains that act as the border still today, into a less than welcoming France.
Some were lucky enough to get ships to S.America or N.Africa but many were interned in concentration camps in southern France and faced disease and malnutrition.
There are no precise numbers of the exiled that sought this route out of Spain but anywhere from 600,000 to a million people are estimated to have left their homeland for a very uncertain future in 1939, just as Europe was exploding in a world war. Some eventually joined the French resistance, others the armies of Britain or Russia, and some of the most unlucky ones were moved to work camps in Germany and E.Europe.
For the Catalans it was a particularly traumatic time as their President, Lluis Companys was held by the Gestapo in France and returned to Spain to be executed in 1940. It was not until after Franco's death in 1975 that democracy and a new political order meant that many of these exiles could return to their native country, although for many of them it was too late.
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