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Great Escapes - Le Chemin de la Liberte (The French Freedom Trail) @MontyHalls #WW2

Le Chemin de la Liberte (The French Freedom Trail)

After the German offensive in May 1940 and the division of France into two parts - an occupied zone in the North and a free zone in the South - many civilians and military servicemen fleeing from a world of persecution, imprisonment and death now unleashed by the Nazi brutality, sought refuge where they could in the free southern zone which remained a symbol of hope. Among the military personnel were escaped prisoners of war, recently enlisted men, army cadets and shot-down airmen, all driven by the same desire to rejoin the Allied forces and continue the fight. Among the escaping civilians were victims of discrimination of all kinds, foreigners, Jews, resistants and anyone who had been denounced for one reason or another.

Their common denominator was the vital need to get away from the unbearable oppression in France and reach Spain by crossing the Pyrenees

In early in February 1943, after the introduction of the STO (Service du Travail Obligatoire, or obligatory forced labour order) under which all young men were to be deported to work in Germany, a flood of draft evaders decided to either join one of the increasing Maquis resistance groups or flee across the mountains to neutral Spain.

Faced with such an abrupt exodus of its prospective manpower force, the Nazi crackdown was swift and harsh. Arrests multiplied, escape networks were infiltrated and broken up, passeurs and guides relentlessly hunted down - so much so that of 2,000 known guides more than half were executed immediately or died later in German concentration camps.

But in spite of these many setbacks 33,000 men, women and children escaped successfully along the entire length of the Pyrenees and realised their dream of freedom.

Read more here:
Channel 4 Series
Former marine Monty Halls retraces the routes of great escapes from Nazi territory, meeting surviving escapees and locals who risked their lives to help them
Episode 4 - France and Spain: The Pyrenees

Monty retraces one of the toughest freedom trail routes in Europe, across the Pyrenees from France to Spain, and meets soldiers who survived it and people who risked their lives to help them

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