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October 22nd, 2010
10:49 AM ET

Exhibit: Albanian Muslims saved Jews from Nazis

From CNN affilate KSDK:

With rising anti-Muslim sentiment across the country, an untold story is raising greater awareness about the Muslim faith and the teachings of the Quran. That awareness comes from an unlikely source: a small Jewish congregation in Creve Coeur.

Temple Emanuel is premiering a groundbreaking exhibit of photos that reveals Albanian Muslims who saved 2,000 Jews during World War II.

It's a story you've likely never heard. It is a story told through the faces of Albanian Muslims who risked their own lives to live by a code of faith and honor called Besa.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Holocaust • Interfaith issues • Islam • Judaism

soundoff (375 Responses)
  1. Valjaa

    Real Muslims !
    Hmmm but i ask myself when albanians helped the jews , what is israel waiting. ISRAEL RECOGNIZE KOSOVO

    August 7, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  2. Gurl1

    I think israel should recognize kosovo because albanians helped the jews.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  3. hellenic eagle

    Albanians that saved Jews ??? You can't expect me to believe that! Are you blind?

    The War criminal Nazi-Albanian Chams -collaborateurs with Fascists,Italians,German, are guilty !!
    because the transported [60,000 Greek Jews] directly from Greece into the gas chambers to Auschwitz, Birkenau

    July 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • toni

      Why you g(r)eeks, at least for a short moment, dont enjoy a good spirit story?...Your negativism brought you at your actual position. I feel pity for you!

      August 6, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  4. rita

    hi guys..just let u know,albanian people have been occupied by Turkey for like 500 years and they changed some of the albanian's religion but even that they call themselves "muslims" they are more like atheist because they dont pray 5 times a day they dont even pray 1 time...they drink alcohol,they dress up short, girls are allowed to have boyfriends,they dont cover their hairs,virginity isn't that important for them...they are just way different from muslims countries

    February 19, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Elder

      Albania was the first atheist country in the world. I believe it was 1967 when the dictator of Albania declared the country an atheist country. There are many people in Albania who have muslim roots but they're mostly atheist. But, that doesn't matter.
      They predate the Greeks in the Balkans. They used to be known as Illyrians. Alexander the Great's mother was Illyrian and his father half Illyrian. Although, Greeks dispute this fact.

      None of this matters. What matters is that they risked their own lives and were able to save 2000 people.

      December 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Wow where this post been hiding any way never knew it was possible to have Internet in a c-ave but may decide to move to one? Any way my mother tongue language is not English it is Arabic but am proud for being able to com-municate with Two languages?
    Any way Joe Wade you are right I shouldn't have posted in Arabic but that was on my first experience with blogs and as you can see it was old dated and not most recent.
    Have changed this atti-tude with the help of Sum Dude who was able to convince me in a kinder and po-liter way than your way and I did listen to here but as to your atti-tude only would drive me or any other person to go on further with wrong and become more stub-born?
    It is said a nice word br-eaks the hard rocks...so maybe by the use of that you would be even more effe-ctive in your life with people... 

    November 14, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  6. Muneef

    @Raison.
    @Sum Dude.
    And now
    @Joe Wade??

    November 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  7. Joe Wade

    These stories most likely are true and commendable. However, they are far and few in-between and they will not change the bottom line. The truth is that the large majority in the Muslim world are quiet while a minority is highly radicalized. By the way this minority is still very large in absolute numbers – if we say that 10% of the Muslim world is radical then it means roughly 120 million Muslim who are hell-bent to destroy everything which is non-Islamic. So the bottom line is that we have a problem with Islam until Islam reforms itself and purges from within the radical terrorists. I know, my friend was in Dubai at 9/11 and he was a first hand eye-witness to see that at his workplace everybody celebrated with cakes the destruction of the twin towers. Do you see what I mean? Islam is the problem no matter what the politically correct liberals in Europe and America say. They are kowtowing to the Muslim radicals and things are getting worse while the majority is in silence and in support by being in silence.

    November 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  8. kh

    That is probably why other Muslims didn't seem to care about what happened to the Albania Muslims in the 90's. They are so blinded by their hatred of Jews that they can't see past it and show compassion like the Muslims in Albania did.

    November 3, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  9. Simphy

    My opinion is that Albanians ate very kind and I think that the Jews who got saved should be thankful.

    November 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  10. Doug

    Anyone who knows any Muslims from Albania know that they are Muslim Lite.

    Albanians are only out for Albanians and will go in any direction which will be best for them.

    I went to an Albanian Mosque the week after 9/11 and I was expeting to pound some of these short little creatures. But what I found was that they hated the muslims, loved america, drank like a sailor, like to get with as many women as they could, and appreciated a good beat down of their wife.

    I felt like I was in Alabama.

    The only thing Albanians believe in is the US Dollar. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  11. Epidamnus

    I love the article, because as an Albanian, I have always known these stories to be a fact.
    While the stories are 100% true, this article contains 2 very ignorant pieces of information which are presented as fact.
    I have an example from my own family to prove it.

    1. The tradition of Besa has NOTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM!!! BESA is a PAGAN Albanian tradition, which most likely pre-dates Islam and even Christianity. The closest English translation for the word Besa is the English word "Oath". It is taboo to break your oath or "Besa" in Albania, once you swear yourself to someone. Besa is also commonly used as a word to describe someone's "trustworthiness", or someone that stands by his word.

    2. ALBANIANS IN WW2 DID NOT HELP JEWS BECAUSE OF RELIGIOUS REASONS! They did it out of human compassion. For those who understand Albanian culture, they would understand that they did these things purely out of moral obligation, and in a smaller degree because of their traditional adherence to the custom of Besa. BESA IS NOT RELIGION. It is however a strongly upheld a cultural moral standard. So the statement that Albanians considered helping the Jews as their religious obligation, is for the overwhelming part MISSLEADING.
    EXAMPLE: I can attest to this, because my own grandfather hid a Jewish couple in 1943, for 2 months in his own house, while the Nazis were raiding Albanian homes in his Tirana neighborhood, in search of Jews. If they found Jews, (which they almost never did) they would kill them, as also kill Albanian families that harbored them. My grandfather was not religious at all. Every time he would tell us the story, he would say that he felt bad for them because they were innocent civilians who were being chased just because they were Jews. he never mentioned religion, nor Besa. He did it purely out of compassion!

    3. For those who may have a missconception of Albanians in general, we have never been religious people from a general point of view (I am sure there are a few nuts in every country). your typical Albanian has been and still is a secular person, and humanist at heart. he will think with his own head, before he lets religion dictate his behaviour. I am proud of this fact, because in other countries Jews were persecuted BECAUSE of religius reasons. Albania harbors 3 main religions, Catholic, Christian Orthodox and Islam (which is the least followed by the way, becasue it is a religion that was forced on us). All 3 of these religions in WW2 did NOT support the Jews. However that did not stop the local Albanian population from protecting the Jews.

    The reporters of this story are either misinformed, or purposely misleading with a purpose of using this article to build bridges between Islam and the west. While I agree with their peaceful intentions, I cannot agree with their spin.
    yes it is a fact that Muslim Albanians helped Jews, however you have to understand that these so called "muslims" were for the most part only muslims by name, and not by practice.

    I am not trying to throw mud at this article, because it does tell a true story (however twisted), however the truth about these events is even more beautiful then this article! The truth of these events speaks about the big heart of the people in this small defenseless country during WW2 – a people who saw beyond religion and ethnicity, and acted purely out of good will.

    November 1, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  12. exenter

    Horrible article. Get your facts strait, Albania is not a Muslim state! And "besa" has nothing to with religion! Most Albanians do not follow any religion.

    October 31, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
    • Anser Hasan

      are u stupid, go on to any encyclopedia, it will say Islam is the dominant religion like 79-80% of the population is muslim. It is of religion reason because as Islam says saving one person means saving the whole humanity. Keeping this in mind Albanians through this moral, bravely saved the Jews. You Christians are always in denial, totally ignorant like a 5 yr old crybaby, they never appreciate what at least the peaceful side of the Muslim population do for the common good. No wonder when USA killed Osama Bin Laden, and thank god he died, the Muslim countries did not appreciate them as they also killed countless muslims in the previous hunts for Bin Laden. Appreciate every religious person and they shall return the favor.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  13. gandu

    muslims saved jews from christians?

    October 29, 2010 at 6:31 am |
    • Albana

      Albanians, as human beings saved humans in need from devil. That's it, is just as simple as that. I am albanian and surprised to read here "albanian muslims". I am not able to distinguish between albanian muslims, catholics and orthodox, but CNN can, bravo. In Albania religion was never important or highly practised. The social life was the same for all of us, regulated by KANUN, part of which is BESA. I have muslim background, I am part of the 70% muslims reported so loudly, but believe me, no one in my extended family is a muslim religios, me and my sister go in catholic church, my mother prepares good dishes for Bajram (that's the only thing that she does as muslim), I prepare good ones for Christmas. We wish each other Merry Christmas, Happy Bajram. I keep always in my home the orthodox eggs, given to me by my friends. One of my cousins, who has muslim name is very catholic religios. He studied some years for priest in Malta, now lives in Italy, works in construction. Once, I worked for an arabic company in Tirana, the stories of job interview by my co-workers are really interesting. One man told the boss that he was muslim and religios, he went in interview with his wife dressed with hijab. 2-3 months later, he got the job of course, his wife came in office, and our boss was surprised to see her dressed very normal, without hijab, short dress, make-up. Another, an arcitect lady, told him that she was muslim and her husband orthodox, in fact was the oposite. She was afraid that being an orthodox wouldn't get her hired. We always laughed when we talked about our job interviews. The first time that my father saw the Cross on my neck he told me; it is good to believe in GOD, and my brother turned to my mother; you have told me that we are muslims. Personally, I can say at any time that I am a muslim or a catholic, it doesn't make any difference to me at all. As me are the majority of albanians.

      February 28, 2013 at 6:55 am |
  14. Lusana

    It wasn't only Muslim Albanians who helped, but Christians as well. A lot of these news stations only say "Muslim & Jews" so it can attract people's attention (since the 2 religions haven't been so friendly).

    My great-grandfather hid a Jewish family and he was Christian, not Muslim.

    Once again CNN, you have failed with your horrible writing and information skills.

    October 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
  15. Aya

    Seriously to everyone that trashes Muslims like were garbage. Take a second and look at yourself you not any better. I am a Muslim and very proud and I have Jews as friends and no I am not antisemitic even though my family is in palestine right now living in oppression. Muslims don't have Jews they hate the fact the israel GOVERNMENT is getting away with human right violations that would have been stopped long ago if they were occurring else. So for all you ignorant Muslim haters g your facts straight before having th nerve to judge all Muslims by your proclaimed stereotype. Bc I don't sit here judging allllll Jews for the isreali governments actions. So go ahead and hate that's only because you can't handle the truth about isreal and the united states and if you need better understanding read a book called " israel lost" that will educate you on this subject. Thank you to CNN love this post. Allah ma3kom inshallah

    October 26, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  16. Blendi

    Besa – nothing to do with Muslim..pure Albanian code of honor...and Jews were saved by Albanians and not particularly by Muslim Albanians..
    more about Besa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Besa_(Albanian_culture)
    Whoever visited Albanian inhabited land is familiar with Albanian hospitability.

    October 26, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  17. Elmer Romero

    This is a film that needs to be made ASAP.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  18. THE AUTHOR OF THIS STORY IS STUPID.

    The majority of Albanians are moslem by name only. The Ottoman Turks changed their names while they pretended to convert. They are not practicing muslims. They don't pray 5 times a day they don't even pray once a day. They don't fast during Ramadan which they call Ramazan. They don't do any of that stuff. The code besa that the ignorant journalist mentioned is part of Albanian culture that predates Islam. This has nothing to do with Islam. There were many Orthodox and Catholic Albanians as well that CNN failed to mention, while all Albanians descended from Catholic ancestors.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:50 am |
    • exenter

      Most Albanians have Albanians names and not Muslim ones.

      October 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
    • Charles Andjelic

      You are wrong being descendants of the Catholic Faith is incorrect.. The Split was From Italy and Yugoslavia (Modern Day Croatia) The actual Split took place in 1054 A.D. with Croatia going to the Catholic Roman Church i.e. Western Church and Yugoslavia and other ethnic groups going to the Eastern Church I.E: Eeastern orthodox church. Which Enforces your theory wrong. Inaddition, in albania during the invasion of the Ottoman Empire and 500 years of rule in South eastern europe. Albanians were forced into Islam and hidden their christian faiths. Orthodoxy is their primary christian faith and have had catholic missionaries baptizing famous catholic such as: Mary Teresa the most famous catholic Nun in the world. In the end, is the 1st and primary religion of that country next to orthodoxy and last catholicism.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:04 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.