After yesterday's post about Hotel Rwanda and the response of Paul Rusesabagina to the genocide in Rwanda, it was very interesting to read about Yad Vashem's honor of Albanian Muslims as "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.
The article, which I discovered thanks to my friend Margaret Aymer, tells I story I did not know:
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.
Why did this happen? Yad Vashem concludes that the reason was rooted in the faith of Albania's Muslims:
The remarkable assistance afforded to the Jews was grounded in Besa, a code of honor, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country. Besa, means literally “to keep the promise.” One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family. Apparently this code sprouted from the Muslim faith as interpreted by the Albanians.
Besa in Albania.
Making room in Rwanda.
Thanks be to God.
See you along the Trail.