Interview with Joan Reñé i Huguet, President of Diputació de Lleida, one of the AEPJ new members.

In this month's interview, we have the great pleasure of presenting Joan Reñé, President of Diputació de Lleida, one of the AEPJ new members.

For our monthly interview we travel to Lleida, Spain. A region with an incredible and very diverse Jewish heritage, and at the same time very marked by the tragic events of the 40's. In this regard, we have the pleasure of interviewing Joan Reñé, the President of Diputació de Lleida, one of the AEPJ new members.

AEPJ: What do you expect from your involvement with the AEPJ?

Mr. Joan Reñé: Esentially, to contribute in the promotion of the Jewish legacy of our regions and to do it with the collaboration of the AEPJ, that has become a point of reference in this area. We believe it is necessary to combine efforts with other entities and organizations around the world that pursue the same goal. This will allow us to share experiences, to insert our actions in the Jewish heritage network and to, at the same time, grow our project. It is very important to work in a network and to count on the advice of experts to define the project and deploy its maximum potential.

AEPJ: Talk a bit about the Jewish legacy of Lleida.

J.R.: On the one hand, we have a good number of towns and cities where we've found ancient Jewish quarters and Jewish settlements of the Middle Ages. Lately, they have located and evaluated, for example, those of the city of Lleida and those of Cervera and Tàrrega. But there are many others. Therefore, the demarcation of Lleida has an important Jewish legacy that must be promoted. At the same time, our project, "Persecuted and Saved", has an impact on contemporary events, such as the passage through the Pyrenees and other places in the counties of Lleida of thousands of Jews fleeing persecution and the Holocaust. We have the imprint of thousands of Jews on mountain roads from France and Andorra, as well as in the villages of the Pyrenees and in the city of Lleida, where these refugees resided for weeks before marching to Barcelona and other places, from were they would finally migrate to a third country. This role of the Pyrenees and its neighbors, who helped so many Jewish families, is what we want to recover, put in value and make known.

AEPJ: In 2014, you presented the "Persecuted and Saved" project to the International Fair of the Mediterranean Tourist Markets (IMTM) of Tel Aviv. It consisted in the signaling of four escape routes to the Lleida Pyrenees used by Jews to escape of Nazism. What is the balance of these 4 years?

J.R.: The balance is very positive. The project has had an outstanding international impact, both in the tourism sector and in those of culture and historical memory. It has aroused the interest of Israeli tour operators working in the Catalan market, and also within the circuits of cultural and memorial tourism. It is necessary to consider that Israeli tourism is, quantitatively, the most important among those that visit the lands of Lleida; while the central Pyrenees, due to its natural and cultural wealth, has become a preferred destination for this segment of visitors.

All of this has motivated us to continue working. In 2015, a fifth route was incorporated and this year we will incorporate two more, totaling seven signaled evasion routes. In conclusion, it is a very lively and prioritary project for us and we want it to continue advancing.

On the other hand, the project also deserves the attention of the academic and historiographic world, given that the project is based on a solid historical research that brings a lot of light to a European episode that has been little known and studied until now.

AEPJ: Tell us about the "Persecuted and Saved" project and its international dimension.

J.R.: "Persecuted and Save" is a project with a clear international vocation that wants to spread facts about all that which had the Pyrenees of Lleida was its protagonist. The first promotion and dissemination actions have been carried out in Israel from the presence of the Diputación de Lleida to the Tel Aviv Tourism Fair and from the established relationship with different tour operators that visit our Pyrenees. Now we want to spread the project internationally and all its actions from the tourist and historical memory areas. Therefore, we are preparing several initiatives that will help us, even more, to spread our proposal and its values. We are preparing an exhibition to explain the historical facts and the project, which, shortly after, will be inaugurated in Toulouse. We work for the exhibition to travel - not only within Lleida, Catalonia and the Spanish State - but also in Israel, the United States and everywhere where it is requested. With the exhibition, we will internationalize the project and give it a more global dimension, focusing on a segment of the public that is largely interested in cultural values.

AEPJ: What are your challenges for the future?

J.R: The global roaming of the exhibition, as well the promotion and improvement of signaled routes so that they are accessible to all publics. So that everyone who wants to can visit the Lleida Pyrenees and walk the paths through which thousands of Jews found salvation. In short, that this tourism product may be very defined and adapted to the needs of all segments of visitors and entities working in the preservation and dissemination of Jewish Heritage. In the cultural and historical field, we are also interested in collecting the witnesses of the Jews who were saved through our house and to value the role of the people of the Pyrenees in helping these refugees. We are working in this field to pay tribute to the anonymous people of the Pyrenees and the plain of Lleida, which was marked by their humanity and solidarity with a people cruelly persecuted and outraged.

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