The little-known story of Albania’s role in rescuing Jews during the Nazi era and the Holocaust was recognized by the Montreal Jewish community with an exhibition in the Federation CJA lobby.
Albanian Ambassador Elida Petoshati was received during the exhibit, which is drawn from Albanian government archives and is being presented in co-operation with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
The exhibition, created in connection with the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence, consisted of reproductions of documents and photos highlighting Albanians’ efforts to save Jews between 1933 and 1945.
CIJA board member Joseph Gabay said Albania was a refuge for hundreds of Jews coming from other countries.
Up to 1939, the Albanian embassy in Berlin was issuing visas to Jews trying to flee, he said.
“It is unique in Europe that the number of Jews in Albania went from about 200 at the start of the war to more than 2,500 by the time the country was liberated,” Gabay said.
Sixty-five Albanians are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Gabay noted that, since the fall of the Communist regime in Albania in 1991, numerous testimonials have come to light of the protection of Jews during the Nazi period.
“Madame Ambassador, in the name of the Jewish community of Montreal, I thank your country and its people for their heroic conduct, for having saved humanity, because our tradition teaches us that whosoever saves one life, saves humanity,” Gabay said.
Israeli Consul General Joel Lion also paid tribute to the courage of the Albanian people, and the strong ties today between Albania and Israel.
Larry Nachshen, president of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, also acknowledged the debt of gratitude the Jewish people owe to the Albanians today.
“The rescuers clearly understood the moral values that bind us as human beings,” he said.