Cruel Crossing; escaping Hitler across the Pyrenees – Edward Stourton

This is a history of some of the escape routes out of Nazi occupied Europe open to people trying to flee the horrors of the Nazi war machine, avoid capture as POWs and get useful information out to the Allies.

The book tells the stories of some of the people involved working the lines, the stories of some of the escapees and about the routes themselves.  It also tells of how the Chemin de la Liberte is commemorated today.

Whilst this book is a celebration of the escape routes it is also sad to learn of the brave people who were betrayed, tortured and killed for running the routes or for trying to use them to escape.  It is almost unbearably sad to learn about those who were so close to freedom but didn’t quite make it over the dangerous and treacherous paths.

I knew, from previous reading, that crossing the Pyrenees was a route out of Nazi Europe but until I read this book I had no real understanding of the difficulties facing people trying to achieve it.  Nor did I know anything of the people who were involved in helping to get people through to Spain.

Edward Stourton has done a good job in uncovering facts and bringing them to life in this book.  He uses a good mix of personal testimony from survivors, hand-me-down stories from the descendants of those who are no longer alive to tell their stories and documented records and accounts. This means the reader gets a many-sided view of the history of the Chemin de la Liberte.

I’m also impressed that Stourton completed the Chemin.

A book that is emotionally difficult to read in parts and one well worth reading.

Click here to find out more about the Chemin de Liberte

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