Walter Benjamin: philosopher, literary critic and translator. Born in 1892 in Berlin. In September 1940 during his flight from the National Socialists the left-wing writer and Jew dies in the northern Spanish border town of Portbou. Benjamin fears that the lack of an exit stamp from France will cause him to be handed over to the Nazis, so he commits suicide. Hitler’s henchmen drive European emigrants south across France before them. In 1994 the internationally highly regarded artist, Dani Karavan, created a memorial in the Portbou cemetery.
In 2007 the Walter Benjamin hiking trail completed with information boards along the route. It commemorates Benjamin’s last journey across the Pyrenees from Banyuls-sur-Mer in France to Portbou.
The memorial site and the hiking trail have been very popular for many years and the name Portbou is inextricably linked with the death of the Jewish academic, while being pursued by the Nazis. It is the purpose of this website and the mobile app to present a first opportunity to get to know Walter Benjamin as a person, the circumstances of and background to his flight, and to discover parallels between then and now.
Who are we? Who makes and supports this website? Please see the final tab About us.
September 2007: the waymarking for the hiking trail from Banyuls in France and Portbou in northern Spain is now completed. At every point along the route there is a change in perspective between the views of the turquoise blue sea and the mountain ranges, shimmering in the midday heat. One day awe-inspiring hurricane-strength tramontane winds; the next tranquil solitude. A day’s walk full of variety, in no way alpine, but not a gentle stroll either. At times a pleasant walk between the vineyards and dry river beds, along tarmacked roads with scarcely any shade, between fertile gardens, and often along goat tracks between olive trees twisted by the storms.
Lizards scurry across boulders, and with luck you will see a gecko dozing in the sun. At the top the escape route becomes a scree slope, the pass lies a good 500 metres above the glittering surface of the sea. Has it become two seas? The enchanting panorama lets you forget for a moment the fate of thousands of refugees who crossed and still cross this plateau.
The F-route, named for Lisa and Hans Fittko, brings thousands of people to Portbou, a decisive step on their way to freedom. Walter Benjamin, however, commits suicide there in late summer 1940, terrified by the presence here of the National Socialists.
In memory of the people, who, in 1940, escaped with their lives along the F-route (and nowadays the Walter Benjamin Trail). Or in memory of those for whom, even today, a border is more than just a line. From Banyuls to Portbou on foot, a day among olive trees and on stony paths.
But who is this Lisa Fittko, to whom there is a monument on the route?
And what is Walter Benjamin referring to in his philosophical essay on the technical reproducibility of works of art, films and photographs?
At eleven points along the way we explain the background to the story- for Android appliances no mobile connection is required, even up on the pass or down in a narrow valley. The app for smartphone/tablet can be downloaded here or from the app store . After this the tours can be downloaded to be used offline anywhere and at any time.
The GPS technology of the Android app helps you to find the sometimes meandering path. At eleven places suitable for resting you can hear, see and read background information. An online version for users of other systems will be available.
Installation and Start: After installing ➀ the app from App-Store or from the website, ➁ download a tour from the context menu of the app, and then ➂ choose from the context menu. ➃ Perhaps also download maps/tiles so you can consult the map en route.
➔ The contents of each information point are displayed in the browser, we strongly advise you to use an up-to-date version of Firefox or Chrome.
Sitemap: Overview of Information Points
 The Walk and Guide · The walk that lies before you, what this guide offers and first thoughts about Walter Benjamin.
 Fascism in Europe · Hitler’s Germany attacks France, fugitives from the NS flee to the south. They become trapped in the no-longer safe port of Marseille.
 The Tribulations of Escaping · Crossing the border illegally in the mountains requires the activation of hidden reserves of strength and nervous energy- especially after many years in exile.
 Pass, Border, Escape Routes · Borders are both obstacles and gateways to freedom. Fleeing from Francoism and the Nazis, and nowadays fleeing to Europe, using many different routes and aided by Escape Networks
 Art and Media Theory · Social effects of radio and cinema. Reproducibility of the work of art. The emancipatory potential of mass culture
Portbou and Banyuls can both be reached easily by French railway SNCF as there are direct trains from Paris and Strasbourg which stop there. All types of accommodation are available from the simple private holiday apartment in Portbou to hotels of all categories along the coast.
We would like to expressly thank the following for their support:
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Solidaritätsfonds der Hans Böckler Stiftung
Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg
Kommedia e.V. Freiburg
Walter Benjamin Archiv / AdK
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (The views or opinions expressed in this website, and the context in which the images are used, do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of, nor imply approval or endorsement by, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Especial thanks to Erdmut Wizisla and Ursula Marx (Walter Benjamin Archiv, Berlin), Jordi Font (MUME, La Jonquera), Teresa Puig i Garbi (Portbou), Hanne and Hubert Eckart (for the excerpts from the Lisa Fittko audio book), Joan Gubert (Portbou), Marian Roman (Portbou), Aktives Museum e.V. (Berlin), Literaturarchiv Marbach, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933 – 1945 / Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (Frankfurt/Main).
All the information on this page is intended as an initial orientation, for which no liability can be accepted.
The contents are licensed under a Creative Commons Licence
, as long as nothing is stated to the contrary, for example, that restrictions are imposed by the copyright holder of some pictures.
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All about us . . .
✗ The editorial team: Heike Demmel (Erlangen), Traudel Günnel (Freiburg) und Andreas Klug (Freiburg).
✗ Translated by Yasmina Khoyratee (Freiburg) [FR], Teresa Puig i Garbi (Portbou) [CA], Angela Sprotte (Freiburg) [EN] und Carlos José Véliz Barón (Berlin) [ES].
✗ Speakers: Helvia Dupont (Argeles sur Mer) [FR], Jamie McIntosh (Freiburg) [EN], Teresa Puig i Garbi (Portbou) [CA], Antonia Solsona Gasch (Portbou) [ES], Jule Schröter (Nürnberg) [DE].
✗ App-programming (GPL): Jürgen Mages (Erlangen)
✗ Logo: Benjamin Bartke
KoMMedia – Kommunikationskultur und Medienpädagogik e.V. is a registered society based in Freiburg.