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four women consult a map; three newcomers approach: Walter Banjamin, Henny and Jose Gurland

Other small groups of refugees passed us, marching in the same direction. We sat down and searched our makeshift maps. In the meantime we were joined by an elderly gentleman, a younger woman, and her son.

the customs house

We wandered about here and there and at sunset were on the other side of the mountain. We saw what we thought to be our first Spanish customs office. To our dismay we learned that it was the second one...

tall uniformed officer looks intimidating

...and the police captain in charge declared us under arrest and obliged to return to the French border.

Carina Birmann pleads with the customs officer

I asked as a favour that we could pass the night in a quiet place, and promised that we would go back the following morning.

Birmann is unable to convince the border agents

My neck was seized by a big hand; I was turned around and commanded by a stocky man to order my party to follow us closely; we were to be accommodated overnight at a special police hotel.

Carina and her three female companions discuss strategy in one hotel room

We gathered to discuss how to avoid the dreaded return to the border. We knew that the border police were not only linked with the Nazis, but nearly all of them were informers and acting on Nazi orders. They all had the lists of people wanted by the Germans.

Sophie Lippmann suggests a plan

Sophie and I had a few gold coins with us. Sophie, based on the knowledge acquired from her literary upbringing, was sure that bribing the Spaniards with gold coins would make them more helpful.

Carina places a hand on Benjamin's doorknob: room four

In the hallway she heard a loud rattling from one of the rooms. She returned and asked me to look into this. I entered the room and found Professor Benjamin in a desolate state of mind and completely exhausted.

Carina in Benjamin's room

He was lying half-naked in his bed, and had his big beautiful golden pocket watch open on a little board near him, observing the time constantly. He told me by no means was he willing to return to the border, or to move out of this hotel. When I remarked that there was no alternative, he declared that there was one for him.

Carina and Benjamin

He hinted that he had some very effective poisonous pills with him. I told him of our plan to bribe out way out with gold and implored him to abandon the idea of suicide, at least to await the result of Sophie’s dealings with the local authorities, about which he was very pessimistic.

Carina hovers in doorway of Benjamin's room

I left him only when his lady companion came in and kept guard with him. I did not know him at all, and was thus unaware whether it was the right thing to do to hinder him from departing this life which he seemed to abhor. The next morning we heard that he had succeeded and was no more amongst us.