HMD 2013 Communities together: Albania

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Albania had only 200 Jews before the war. However, the country became a safe haven for Jews and proved refuge for several thousands of Jewish refugees from other countries,

When, in 1943, the Nazis requested from the Albanian authorities a list of the country's Jews, they refused to comply. The Albanian underground saved the Jews by taking them from towns and cities, giving them false identities and hiding them in the countryside. Some 2000 Jews were saved from Nazi persecution. Albanians gave them clothes, gave them Albanian names, and treated them as part of the family.

The underground resistance warned that anyone who handed over a Jew to the Nazis would be executed.

The protection of Jews in Albania continued to be a priority for the local population even after the occupation of the country by the Nazis in1943, after the controlling Italian forces capitulated to the Germans. 

The protection of Jews in Albania continued to be a priority for the local population even after the occupation of the country by the Nazis in1943, after the controlling Italian forces capitulated to the Germans.

Why did Albania succeed in saving the Jews when all other countries failed?

The Albanian people live by a code of honour known as ‘besa’. Besa is a uniquely Albanian concept that says a guest in one’s home must be protected at all costs. As the Jewish refugees were ‘guests’ within Albanian borders, the citizens of Albania were duty bound to protect them.