On Thursday, Yad Vashem will inaugurate an exhibition of Albanian Muslims who were “Righteous Among Nations.” This designation, the Jewish people’s highest honor, is awarded to those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Albania’s Righteous Actions
When the Axis Powers invaded Albania in 1939, the good people of Albania refused to release the names of their Jewish citizens. They provided false papers and helped their Jewish population hide amidst the general public.
They were so effective in their efforts that Albania became a safe haven for Jews fleeing other regimes.
Albania is one of the very few countries in Europe- and the only one under Nazi dominance- whose Jewish population rose during World War II.
Not a single Jewish life was lost to the Nazis in Albania.
What Made Albania Different?
What made the Albanians refuse to comply with the Nazis when almost everyone else did? Their strong Muslim beliefs.
Here is one man’s explanation:
“Why did my father save a stranger at the risk of his life and the entire village?” asked Enver Alia Sheqer, son of Righteous Among the Nations Ali Sheqer Pashkaj, who is featured in the exhibition. “My father was a devout Muslim. He believed that to save one life is to enter paradise.”