Saturday 22 August 2009


This is one of the most beautiful stories I have had the privilege of reposting. Maybe I am in a woosy mood, but I cried tears of happiness to see what was and what could be again! However, I do have one question. Were the shoe on the other foot, the Albanian Muslims the ones running from the Nazis, would the Jewish people risk themselves as the Albanians did? What do you think? I would love to think they would!

Holocaust Exhibit Sheds Light on
Story of Unlikely Rescuers, Muslims

Baba Haxhi Dede Reshatbardhi, an Albanian Muslim who helped save Jews during the Holocaust, was photographed by Norman H. Gershman for the exhibition ~ Besa: A Code of Honor.(Courtesy of El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center)

Paso Times By Doug Pullen
August 16, 2009
Originally in Vos Iz Neias

El Paso, TX ~ Photographer Norman H. Gershman's "Besa: A Code of Honor" exhibit chronicles one of the more unusual ~ and less-known ~ stories from the Holocaust.

Its 30 black-and-white photos tell the stories of some of the more than 20,000 Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews from the Nazis during World War II.

"There is no evidence of any Jew being turned over to any Nazi," said Gershman, who is Jewish, from his home in Basalt, Colo. "Seventy percent of the people in Albania are Muslims."

Muslims rescuing Jews seems improbable in today's world. Gershman hopes the exhibit, which will open a five-week run Aug. 23 at the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, will help chip away at ethnic and religious stereotypes.

"Our purpose is really to inform the West of what Muslims did," he said. "These are Muslims. They did it in relation to their religion. They primarily did it without compensation or want of any."

The six-year project took Gershman, who turned 77 on Friday, to the southern European country and to neighboring Kosovo, where he met with some of the people (or their families) who helped spirit Jews out of the country.

"In many cases, Jews were arrested or were refugees, and those (Albanians) living there would give them false passports and dress them in Islamic garb," Gershman said. "In many cases, the Albanian rescuers never even knew their real names."

The Albanian people were practicing a centuries-old code of conduct called besa.

"There's a culture of besa. It's thousands of years old. It's a code of honor," he explained. "It's inconceivable for an Albanian to turn their back on someone that needs help, to the point where they will lay their lives down for them."

The people he photographed and interviewed ~ Gershman also produced a book of photographs and stories ~ had integrated besa into their religion.

"One said, as an example, that there is no Quran without besa, no besa without Quran," Gershman recalled. "They said, 'We were saving God's children,' 'If you save a life, you to go paradise,' 'Jews and Muslims are cousins,' and on and on."

When Gershman asked one man why his family risked their lives for the Jews, he replied, " 'Any Albanian would have done it. It's nothing special.' "

But it's a pretty special story to Gershman, one that's received very little publicity, largely due to more than four decades of oppressive communist rule at the hand of Enver Hoxha. The stories began circulating after Hoxha's death in 1985 and the election of a non-communist regime in 1992, Gershman said.

"I'd never heard of it, either. I'm learning about this along with everybody else," said Maribel Villalva, executive director of the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center. "I'm surprised. People who are scholars on the Holocaust are hearing about this for the first time, too. It took Mr. Gershman to discover this story and put it out there."

The show consists of about 30 16-by-20-inch black-and-white portraits, some straightforward, others emotional. Each is accompanied by explanatory text. Gershman chose to shoot in black and white because, he said, it gives the portraits a more "timeless" look.

"There are wonderful stories of courage," Villalva said. "Some are really sad, but the common theme in all of them is this is what they had to do ~ it didn't matter if these people were Jewish or Christian. It was simply because they were human."

It's also an inspiring story, she added. "It's very easy to get caught up in the horrors and the sadness of the Holocaust," Villalva said. "What this exhibit does is showcase the courage of the people who did everything in their power."

The exhibit was organized by the Hebrew Union College ~ Jewish Institute of Religion Museum. It has been displayed at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum, as well as the United Nations and the Council of European Nations.

It has been endorsed by Presidents Clinton and Carter, Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel, and Jehan Sadat, the widow of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Villalva said the exhibit has been making the rounds of Holocaust museums and is showing concurrently at the Holocaust Museum Houston. It will head to Nashville after its El Paso run ends Sept. 27.

Gershman's project is also the subject of a documentary, "God's House," which will be released in 2010. He's been interviewed about it on radio's Voice of America and Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network. He will be featured on future editions of "CBS Sunday Morning" and NPR's "Weekend Edition."

Villalva said the exhibit serves as a powerful reminder of what people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds can do together. The message is particularly timely in the post-9/11 world, where racial and ethnic stereotypes have worsened.

"You hear a lot about the strife between Muslims and Jews. This highlights a time when people of both faiths coexisted during one of the most horrible times in our history," she said.

Gershman said he really wasn't sure what the project was going to become when he started digging around six years ago. But he believes he chanced upon an inspiring, if little known, part of our history.

"I had no idea why I was doing it," he said, "but I knew I had to do it."


Saved them from ...Saved them from what? Holocaust is a Pharisee Hollywood propaganda to occupy Palestine.

Aah you are too ...aah you are too much IGNORANT.. when it comes to AL-QAEDA you say It's MUSLIMS and when it comes to some good thing you say ITS NOT ABOUT MUSLIMS

Its not about ...Its not about Muslims, its Albanians. We protect the ones who wants our protection. We protect them with our lives. Its Albanian tradition. It´s BESA. It has nothing to do with Kuran or anything religious. BESA is BESA. It has nothing to do with religion.

Thank You Muslims ...Thank You Muslims God/Allah bless you i am Jewish i am glad some people think Muslims and Jews could cooperate

A true Muslim won't ...a true Muslim won't ask anything in return

How are Jews paying ...How are Jews paying back now to Muslims explaIn that please any body thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Jews have risked their lives for the oppressed in every society on earth. The Talmud says that to save one life is to save the world. It never said to save one Jewish life... Throughout history, Jews have been liberal, compassionate and eager to serve their society.

    Unfortunately, virtually every other religion, except Buddists, Hintus and Shintus, have annihilated the Jews in their nation and beyond. The massacre of Jews has been led by Chriatianity and Islam.

    In virtually every Moslem nation, Jews are denied common rights, such as owning land, running for public office and practcing their religion openly. Worse yet, in most Moslem countries, it is permissable to teach that the Holocaust did not happen.

    I do not mean to casually dismiss any help that was provided to Jews during the Holocaust by Moslems. I'm sure that some did perform such acts of courage. However, most Arab nations were aligned with Nazi Germany during WWII. The uncle of Yassir Arafat openly supported Nazi leaders. In reality, Jews were not safe in Islamic countries, even if they were protected by a few courageous individuals.

    Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

    We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany - most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

    I wrote "Jacob's Courage" to promote Holocaust education. This coming of age love story presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

    Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny's only hope.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, "Jacob's Courage"


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