Albania Holocaust memorial honors locals who protected Jews

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Israeli Ambassador in Albania Noah Gal Gendler speaks during the inauguration of a memorial in Tirana , on Thursday, July 9, 2020. A memorial to the six million Jews murdered during the World War II and for the Albanians who protected them from the Nazis was inaugurated Thursday in the capital. (Xhulio Hajdari /Tirana City Hall via AP)

TIRANA – Albania unveiled a Holocaust memorial in the capital on Thursday to honor the dead and the Albanians who protected Jews from the Nazis.

The marble memorial was put at an entrance to Tirana’s Artificial Lake Park, close to Mother Teresa Square. The inscription was written in three languages — English, Hebrew and Albanian — and it said that “Albanians, Christians and Muslims endangered their lives to protect and save the Jews.”

The Nazis murdered 6 million people, but Albania was the only country where no Jews died or were handed over. Albanians protected their few hundred Jewish friends, and helped other Jews who fled from Germany and Austria by either smuggling them abroad or hiding them at home.

“We are the only country with more Hebrews after World War II, where the Hebrews came in search of protection and salvation,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

Nazi German forces occupied Albania from September 1943 until November 1944, when they were pushed out by local communist partisans.

U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim praised Albanians' “besa,” or tradition of trust in rescuing Jews.

A small Jewish community living in Albania left the ex-communist country for Israel just after the fall of the regime in 1991.

Israeli Ambassador Noah Gal Gendler highly praised Albania’s example of protecting the Jewish community during the war.

“An excellent example from a small country which highlights the values of humanity, sacrifice and love, values which still stand as fundamental in Albania,” he said. “It would be magnificent if more nations would learn this part of Albania.”