As tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial day, I thought I’d share something I’m working on for an article on the Holocaust…
During the second world war, when Jews throughout Europe were desperately seeking safety and shelter, one nation did more than any other to save the Jews. Now, this may come as a surprise to many but it was the Muslim nation of Albania.
Around 2,000 Jews were saved in Albania and according to records not a single Jews was handed over to the Nazis which occupied the country. Other than Denmark, Muslim Albania was the only Nazi-occupied country in Europe to have more Jews after the war than before. During my research, I came across an interesting leaflet by an organisation called ‘Faith Matters‘ which highlights this story as well as many others more individual cases of Muslims saving Jews in Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey and more. It’s definitely worth a read.
Here are some snippets of conversation between me and the founder of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal about the issue:
What compelled the Muslim Albanians to Jews as such a risk to their personal safety?
“There are numerous reasons why people took these risks- some were their neighbours, some had a deep sense of Islamic social justice that these people were innocent and needed to be protected, there was also an honour code in Albania called Besa– it was traditional but also linked to Islam- which meant that if someone needed your help then you were bound to try and help them.
“I guess it comes down to a sense of humanity and for many people this humanity came from their Islamic faith and the notion that if you save a life it’s like saving humanity.”
Why does this story remain a hidden chapter in the history of the Holocaust?
“I think that the politicization of the debate in the Middle East especially in Palestine means that the Holocaust is an area Muslims just don’t want to get into. There is this form of association between the two events which needs to be broken because Muslims need to know that they had a historical role in saving the Jews…”
Your thoughts? Are you surprised it ever happened or surprised that we never hear about it?
Image via bushpig [goph51] on flickr.