Albanians Sheltered Hundreds Of Jews During Holocaust

Grace Higgins | October 7th, 2019

During World War II, there were several European nations where the Nazi slaughterhouse seemed to not get a hold of, but few have as such a remarkable story than Albania. During the holocaust, ordinary Albanians would move Jews around hiding spots regularly. They did it so well that the death count was only five.

nyt.com

They saved nearly all of their own 200 native Jews and rescued over 400 from Germany and Austria. They even found time to venture into Nazi-occupied Balkan lands and rescue several hundred from there also.

When it came down to it, Albania was the only European country that had a higher Jewish population after the war than at the beginning of the war. This is a statistic that has been confirmed by Michael Berenbaum, a former project director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the United States of America.

The impressive rescue story did not come out until the early 1990s, because the communist government in power at the time, was quite repressive and did not let much news or stories out of Albania. Yad Vashem, head of the Holocaust Research Insitute, confirmed that the story was true and not just an urban myth in 2007.

It is a story that Albania is now keen to tell and wants the world to know about, as they attempt to join the European Union, they have been told they need to clean up their corrupt government. This story of rescuing hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust, whilst the Albanian people were under quite a repressive communist regime themselves, is seen as an immense success story for their country. They feel it highlights an episode of Albanian magnanimity and that also shows Albanians honor their promises.

You see the difference compared to other European countries was that in Albanian culture there is a deeply rooted obligation which is called besa. It obligates Albanians to provide shelter and safe passage for anyone who needs protection, and if you fail to act, then you bring shame and loss of honor to yourself and your family.

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