Muslim Rescuers also saved Jews:
Dr. Mordecai Paldiel
Among the overwhelming Christian-born European rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, there is a small but important contingent of Moslem rescuers from mostly Albania, as well as Bosnia and other regions.
Of special significance are the so-far 63 Albanians awarded the Righteous title, based on evidence by those they helped to survive during the German occupation of Albania in 1943-1944. Their story remained unknown for many years due to the decades-long rigid Communist regime in that country, that forbade any contacts with outsiders. The importance of their deeds, above and beyond the rescue itself, stems from the Albanian adherence to a sacrosanct principle â€” that of "Besa" â€” one's word of honor. In Albania, when a person gives you his Besa to act in a certain way, then he is committed to abide by it whatever the circumstances. This was coupled With another inherently Albanian folk principle â€” of giving refuge to someone in need of help; during the German rule of Albania, these were especially the Jews in that country. As a result, with a few minor exceptions, all of the some 2,000 Jews in Albania were spared the furnaces of Auschwitz; they were hidden and sheltered by the broad masses of the mostly Moslem population: This is a type of Islam sorely in need today â€” of compassion and mercy; of the sanctity of life and viewing the other, the stranger, as of one's own close family.
When Norman Gershman first stepped into my office, at Yad Vashem, several years ago, and spoke to me of his wish to take professional photos of the Righteous living in various European countries, I directed his attention to Albania and its rescuers. Since his first visit there, and his encounter with the goodly nature of these inhabitants; Norman is a changed man, and his album is a testimony of the faith and commitment by him to bring the message of these unknown rescuers, in that still unknown country in Europe, to the attention of the public at large. He has since enlarged his initial investigation of rescue deeds in Albania, including nearby Kosovo. It is to be hoped that the example of these simple people with a heart of gold will serve as role models for the education of future generations, on the potential of goodness inherent in all men.Â Gershman's discovery of these knights of the spirit is a story to be read by all persons who care about the future course of humanity.
Dr. Mordecai Paldiel
Director, Righteous Among the Nations Dept.