in the Aspe valley and beyond during the Second World War
1 OLORON – VILLA ST-PAUL
A smuggler was interrogated and tortured by the Nazi army. He said nothing about the network he belonged to and was later deported to Germany.
2 SAINT – CHRISTAU
“Résidence du Parc” hotel
There were several meeting places on crossing points organised by the Resistance. When the time had come to leave, they met at the Roman baths of St-Christau, in the Bager forest, or at the Arudy train station café. A white carnation in the buttonhole or a white flannel pouch served as a sign of recognition, as well as an untied right shoelace or whistling a song, “C’est nous les gars de la marine”.
3 BAGER FOREST
Jean-Baptiste Capdaspe, owner of the Escot tobacconist and resistance fighter, helped a British aviator parachute into the Bager forest to join an escape route through the Pyrenees mountains.
4 ROUTE NATIONALE 134
Henri Barrio, a schoolteacher in Sarrance, was requisitioned as a Liason Officer for the Vichy resupply service, and was provided with a motorbike for conveyance, which meant he had no difficulty passing through the checkpoints. When he joined the Resistance, he used this motorbike to transport fugitives into the valley right under the soldiers’ noses. He was eventually denounced and arrested at the Pont d’Esquit. After being interrogated and tortured, he was sent to the prison in Toulouse, although he managed to escape by jumping out of the train during the journey, injuring his leg in the process, then went into hiding in the Maquis. After the Liberation, Henri Barrio set up numerous mountain camps for schoolteachers and pupils. A communist who was very committed to popular education ideals, he founded the Abérouat refuge centre, to make the mountains accessible to everyone.
5 BEDOUS Château Fénart
Wilhem Friedman was a Jew who went into hiding for several months with his wife and daughter in Osse-en-Aspe. He was eventually taken hostage by the Germans. During his interrogation, he asked for a glass of water to drink down the poison he had managed to get hold of. He chose to die rather than live under the thumb of the Nazis.
Dogs sniffing a cart where luggage containing snacks was hidden.
7 ATHAS Marquet barn
Two young farmers covered two fugitives, Jean Walton and Louis Mayor, with hay as a German patrol unit passed by.
The Poun barn, near the Latourette farm, was set alight by the Germans in retaliation against farmers who had hidden fugitives.
A shepherd hiding two men in a hole that he then covered with tree branches.
10 PAS DE L’OSQUE
Pierre Surs and Clément Casuela often helped transport groups of fugitives to the Roncal Valley in Spain, returning home before dawn. Once, on their way back from one of these expeditions, the two men were ambushed. Pierre was imprisoned while Clément escaped before being shot in the legs. The ground was covered in frozen snow. He found shelter and huddled up for four days in the freezing cold, before being found and transferred to Oloron, where one, maybe two of his legs were amputated. He died not long after.
11 CAILLAU CABIN
Caught out in a storm, Manuel Ricoy and his fellow comrades took refuge in the Caillau cabin, where they sat next to a fire sharing an ewe milk offered by shepherds. They soon had to leave again as the patrol unit neared.
12 LHERS PLATEAU
While the smuggler Jean-Pierre Lalhève was at the top of the Cuarde pass, the Germans arrived at his home.
They searched everywhere, interrogating his family, before taking his father, Jean-Baptiste, and brother, Léon, hostage. They told the frightened women that if Jean-Pierre turned himself in to the Kommandantur de Bedous before nightfall, they would free Jean-Baptiste and Léon. Jean-Pierre turned himself in. Of course, his father and his brother were not freed. All three were deported to Mauthausen, never to return.
13 SOMPORT TUNNEL
To reach the mountain smugglers, not everyone had to walk through the forest. People also hid in car boots, coal lorries, hay carts, and empty barrels. In the end, however, the railway workers were the ones who took the greatest risks, providing the most efficient cover on the Pyrenean railway lines. While Somport, also known as the Aspe pass, was heavily guarded, people crossed by train, aided by Albert le Lay, Chief Customs Officer at Canfranc, alongside railwaymen. The fugitives often travelled in the motor or carriages, where hiding places had been specially created. When he was eventually exposed in 1943, Albert le Lay fled to North Africa. After the Liberation, he was offered senior positions in recognition of his virtuous acts but he preferred to return to Canfranc. “If I don’t go back, they’ll close the train station”, he said. He stayed there until 1959.
14 VALLE DE AGUAS TUERTAS
A group of 20 young fugitives originally from Borce, climbed, stick in hand, through Belonce to the Arlet pass, before descending into the Aguas Tuertas valley towards Casa la Mina, where they were met at gunpoint by the Civil Guard.
15 CASA LA MINA REFUGE
The fugitives met two Spanish smugglers in the valley near the Aragon River, one of whom denounced them in exchange for several pesetas to two carabineros, who were waiting for them hidden behind a rock.
16 SPAIN internment camps
The price to pay for foreigners who illegally crossed the border was either displacement, prison or internment in various prison camps set up during the Franco regime. The Spanish authorities negotiated with the Allies to free the prisoners in exchange for coal, potash, wheat and other resources that Spain was running low on at the end of the civil war. One man = one sack of wheat.
17 TOWARDS THE AMERICAS
This was one of the main destinations for those who managed to escape from the Nazi regime.
18 TOWARDS NORTH AFRICA
Boats transported fugitives, soldiers, civilians and those who refused to join the Service du Travail Obligatoire (Compulsory Work Service), who volunteered to join the Free French Forces and armed Resistance groups in North Africa.
19 TEODORO TROITIÑO ALVAREZ, AKA “TINO”
He was a liaison officer and smuggler, along with his two sisters and brother Louis. Originally from Aragon, their family had settled in Aspe to help build the railroads.
Teodoro Troitiño was eventually arrested and deported to Germany, before passing away at the Ravensbrück concentration camp on his 28th birthday.
20 CATHERINE TRAILLE
Aged 17, she lived in Bedous and was a smuggler and liaison officer for the Resistance, just like her father and great uncle Louis. She mastered the escape routes and teamed up with the Troitiño brothers and Jean-Baptiste Capdaspe.