T he one notable exception was Walter Benjamin, who had been living in indigent isolation in Paris since Germany had succumbed to the Nazis. When Hitler’s forces rolled into France in 1940, Benjamin fled southwards ahead of the advancing occupation, until even sheltering in Provence became fraught with peril. With a small band of refugees, he undertook an arduous crossing of the Pyrenees on foot, hoping to be granted safe passage through Spain and Portugal, and then sail from Lisbon to the American refuge that his colleagues had managed to secure for him. On their arrival in the Catalan harbour town of Portbou, the fugitive group learned that Franco’s Spain had closed its northern border, and that they would likely be returned the next morning to occupied France, and thence to a German concentration camp. Benjamin apparently killed himself in a hotel room with an overdose of morphine, although some believe he was assassinated by local agents of the Soviet secret service, the NKVD.