HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY PROTECTED IN ALBANIA UNDER THE NAZI OCCUPATION
October 31, 2006 3:28pm CST
To the specialists of Albanian literature, history, culture and religion. HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY PROTECTED IN ALBANIA UNDER THE NAZI OCCUPATION ALBANIA LITERATURE, HISTORY AND CULTURE A somewhat unknown History... Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, It is as the French correspondent of Neshat Tozaj, Albanian writer, journalist, film script writer and General Director of Albautor, the Albanian Association for Copyright and Neighbouring Rights, that I take the freedom of letting you know of the recent publication of his last book in France "Ils n’étaient pas frères et pourtant” Albanie 1943-1944", the original title published in Albania is “Shalom”. This book intentionally written as a novel because of the friendship described tells us that the Jewish Albanian community and all the refugees who came from other countries found protection and salvation among the Albanian population under the nazi occupation. The Jews in fact were immediately protected and hidden. "They were not brothers and yet... Albania 1943-1944", the English version of the work, was recently translated by Marc Lowenthal, the son of Mr. Larry Lowenthal, Executive Director of Boston's American Jewish Committee. Mr. Van Christo, Executive Director, Frosina Information, Mr. Alan Adelson, Jewish Heritage Project, Mr. Jack Goldfarb and Mr. Stephen Schwartz, amid other personalities, gave us their support for the future publication in the United States... If I am so determined to defend this book it is also because I belong to a family mostly composed of Catholics, Protestants and Jews among whom many teachers who all aim at bringing together and not divide. In this respect this book has a great pedagogical value. All the testimonies addressed by the French readers and several others coming from different countries encourage us to continue our information campaign around the world. The book is now referenced on various web sites, among them historical, literary and mediatic ones. Indeed our greatest wish would be to find somebody relaying our information, any Specialist ready to write some words about this page of History and eventually about the French publication of the book so that people could learn more about this almost unique historical example. Besides Neshat Tozaj's publication a dossier about the Jewish rescue in Albania would deserve to be approached and why not by the prominent specialists, historians expressing themselves on myLot... Dossier, interview, documentary to which would certainly willingly collaborate, if of course invited to, the writer Mr. Ismaïl Kadaré, Mr. Alfred Moisiu, the President of the Republic of Albania (whose grand-parents, I think, information to be verified, were Albanian Jews), President Avner Shalev, His Excellency Mr. Marc Sofer, Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, Dr Bracha Rivlin, Mr. Shaban Sinani, Director of the National Archives, Mr. Refik Veseli, President of the Albanian-IsraeI Friendship Society, Ambassadors such as Mr. Ferit Hoxha in France, his homologue in the United States, Professor Petrit zorba, Professor Bernd Fischer, Dr. Anna Kohen, different specialists and historians, not to forget the remarkable Professor Kotani. The Professor Kotani, very young resistant at the time, who is trying with most difficulties to have a second edition of his book “The Hebrews in Albania during the centuries” published. I would like to precise certain points about the novel written by Neshat Tozaj. Of course the matter of the novel is based on authentic events but the writer chose to present them in this way to stress the brotherhood born between the two boys. Neshat Tozaj’s essential purpose is to make people know that the Jewish community has been protected in Albania during the nazi occupation and to tell why. Religion has nothing to do with this but the strong tradition of hospitality called “besa”. You are to know that in Albania nobody would define himself as Moslem, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or even Jew, for those remaining in the country, but above all as Albanian. It is not rare in Albania to find in the same family members of different beliefs who all honour the different religious feast Days... The novel is the opportunity to approach the Albanian underground Resistance, the welcome attitude reserved not only to Albanian Jews but foreigners and the moral code typical of this country which permitted to save the community. The main interest of the book in our perturbed world is to show that a people in Europe has been capable to live in harmony totally outside of religious problems. This situation is to day discovered, Albania during nearly fifty years was cut from the rest of the world... Neshat Tozaj has often chosen the novel form of writing to present his country and his history to allow us to know more about Albania. Such was the case of the novel “The knives” (Thikat) which, when published in Albania and then in France in 1991, has been internationally welcomed by a great number of observers who spoke about the book. The U.S. State Department even wrote that “Thikat” was a starting point to democratic reform in Albania. The book was denouncing the exactions committed by the Sigurimi under Enver Hoxha. Of course our purpose is essentially before all making this part of History known just to honour a people that deserves our gratitude and also to honour the memory of all the Jews who found protection in Albania. Hoping the subject will retain your attention, Dear ladies and Gentlemen, I took the liberty of writing here because few but prominent Historians and Specialists have treated this piece of history such as Professors Michele Sarfatti, Giovanni Armillotta, Lino Sciarra (Italy), Bernd Fisher, Mr. Jack Goldfarb, Mr. Stephen Schwartz, Mr. Harvey Sarner, Ms. Cloyes-DioGuardi (US) and Ms. Antonia Young (U.K) who have been trying for many years to get these events more widely known. Some of these personalities are indeed looking forward to a future publication in English of Mr. Tozaj’s work... With my very best regards from France. Claire. —— PRESENTATION OF THE WORK "Ils n’étaient pas frères et pourtant… Albanie 1943-1944" (They were not brothers and yet… Albania 1943-1944) By Neshat TOZAJ French Publishers: La Société des Ecrivains (S.d.E) A SOMEWHAT UNKNOWN HISTORY In his work “Ils n’étaient pas frères et pourtant… Albanie 1943-1944? Neshat Tozaj describes the Jewish community that had been present in Albania for centuries as well as Jews from other countries welcomed during, hidden and protected during the second world war. “Shalom”, the original title of the work published in Albania has been modified for French readers since we wished to reach them in all their diversity. The author deals with this period with an approach different to that which one is used to reading, hearing or seeing in most documentaries. The Jewish community is not only depicted as a persecuted community but also as an Albanian community living among other Albanians, united in the same struggle against Nazism and Fascism. A struggle carried on to protect life, human dignity, the property of each person and the cultural heritage. The joint commitment to this fight and friendship taken to the ultimate sacrificed by non-Jewish Albanians to save their brothers and their guests set an example that is almost unique and especially unusual in History. This book, very largely inspired by actual facts, is an opportunity to pay homage to a little nation often forgotten, which was merely doing its duty in barbarous times. The publication of this book, apart from the moment of history that it reveals, seems to me to be essential and salutary for many people, starting with the youngest, of all origins, religions or other philosophical allegiances. In fact, in our age in which the problems of racism, anti-Semitism or excessive community loyalty are the order of the day, this work brings a very comforting ray of light. “Ils n’étaient pas frères et pourtant…” is also a message of hope and encouragement. The book of Neshat Tozaj, intentionally produced in the form of a novel, the man being mainly an author and journalist, is an opportunity to learn about the Albanian resistance and to recognize the particularly warm welcome extended by the Albanian people to the Jewish community in this dramatic period. I would add that, for a more profound insight into the period described in Neshat Tozaj’s novel, I had access to the remarkable work “The Hebrews in Albania during centuries” (sic) by Professor Apostol Kotani, a historian and a very young resistance fighter at the time. This work retraces the history of Albanian Jews settled in the country since antiquity and it allows us, above all, to discover that in Albania, the Jewish community was spared during the Second World War. During his long years of research, Mr Kotani has gathered the poignant testimony of many Jews of ancient stock or refugees, all of whom express their eternal gratitude to this “little” country that was able to honour its tradition of “Besa”, the sharing of bread, salt and the heart with anyone who is in distress, a foreigner, a guest of the like, on Albanian soil. Survivors, many of whom emigrated to Israel or the United States after the war, spontaneously collaborated on the work and they all assert in it that no Jews were deported in Albania during Nazi and Fascist occupation. Nor did Mr Ferit Hoxha, the Albanian Ambassador to France, fail to stress in his speech at the ceremony held on the occasion of the publication in France of Neshat Tozaj’s book that his country was the only state in Europe where the Jewish population had increased at the end of the Second World War. To follow...