Be forgiving, encourage what is good, and avoid the ignorant. --Qur'an 7:199

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Muslims who saved Jews from Holocaust Honored

When the German Nazi army occupied Albania it wasn’t long before the Albanians were ordered to surrender their Jewish citizens. That prompted a massive movement among Albanians from top officials to grassroots villagers to shelter Jews. Most of those engaged in the movement were Muslims. Hospitality is a deeply held value for Albanians, so they went to great lengths and took personal risks to shield the Jews from the Nazis. Non-Jewish Albanians would steal identity cards from police stations for Jews to use. The Albanian underground threatened to execute anyone who turned a Jew in to the Nazis. Jews from Serbia, Austria and Greece found refuge in Albania.

As astonishing as this may sound: Not a single Jew from Albania ended up in the concentration camps.

Dr. Anna Kohen, speaking at a Holocaust remembrance in New York City talked about her family fleeing to a mountain village. They all took Muslim names. She said, “Everyone in the village knew they were Jews, but not one person betrayed them.” Her family’s story was repeated again and again throughout Albania.

Sulo Mecaj, a farmer from the village of Kruja who sheltered 10 Jews in his attic, was asked what would happen if the Nazis burned down his house with the Jews inside. “My son will go into the attic with the Jews and suffer their fate.” At the end of World War II there were more Jews living in Albania than at the start of the war, the only country in Europe where this happened.

Faith as well as culture played a major role in this life-and-death hospitality. Shyqyri Myrto helped Josef Jakoel and his sister Eriketa evade Germans going house to house searching for them. He said, “Our Muslim religion says we must help someone who is in danger in difficult times.”

Albanian protectors of the Jews were named on the “Rescuer’s Wall” at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 1995. Albanian Muslim names are inscribed at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem among others as the “Righteous Among the Nations.”   »»» Informed Comment

Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near, the neighbor who is a stranger. (Qur’an 4:36)

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