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Documentary seeks to explain why Albanians saved Jews in Holocaust
Norman Gershman and Stu Huck discuss a portrait in a documentary about Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
August 3rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Documentary seeks to explain why Albanians saved Jews in Holocaust

By Laura Koran, CNN

(CNN) - How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger?

It’s the question at the center of the new documentary “Besa: The Promise,” which premiered last weekend at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

The filmmakers’ answer: “Albanians would.”

During one of humanity’s darkest chapters, when millions of Jews, gays, communists and racial minorities were rounded up across Europe, many Albanians put up a fight to save complete strangers.

They risked their lives to shelter displaced Jewish families under Italian, and later German, occupation during the Holocaust. Many in the small, predominantly Muslim country in southeastern Europe took refugees into their homes despite the risks and the cost, passing their guests off as family members to keep them safe.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

At the core of this effort was a concept called “besa,” an Albanian code of honor that holds a person’s oath as sacred.

Under besa, a guest in one’s home must be protected at all cost. The code is uniquely Albanian and is cited in the new film as the main reason that Albanians opened their borders and their homes to displaced Jews when many others in Europe turned them away.

The code is fueled in part by the tenets of Islam under which saving a life is a blessed act.

Until recently, this chapter of history remained relatively unknown, hidden by the decades of isolation that Albania fell under following World War II.

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“Besa: The Promise,” which will be shown in different parts of the country in coming weeks, tells the story of Albanian rescues by focusing on the overlapping journeys of two very different men.

The first is Norman Gershman, a Jewish-American photographer who for the last decade has photographed many of the Albanian Muslims who joined the effort to shelter Jews. He has traveled to Albania to meet with them or their surviving family members, documenting their  tales of heroism.

The film’s second protagonist is an Albanian shopkeeper named Rexhep Hoxha, who was born after World War II but has struggled for decades to fulfill an oath that his now-deceased father swore in the 1940s.

Rexhep Hoxha holds one of the Hebrew prayer books left behind by the Jewish family his Muslim father rescued in Albania during the Holocaust.

Hoxha’s parents sheltered a Jewish family during the Holocaust. When members of that family fled to Israel, they left behind a set of religious books, which the Hoxhas promised would be returned to them one day.

But Hoxha never saw them again.

Lost to history

Albania is Europe’s only majority-Muslim country, and its Jewish population before the war was about 200 people.

To some, those facts may make it even more surprising that Albania succeeded where the rest of Europe failed.

According to Yad Vashem, the Israeli museum that holds the world’s largest repository of documents and information related to the Holocaust, there is not a single known case of a Jew being turned over to Nazi authorities in Albania during its occupation.

Incredibly, Albania’s Jewish population actually grew during World War II.

The reason so little is known about Albania’s unique role during the Holocaust has a lot to do with the country’s post-war history. Once the war was over, Albania fell under communist control and spent the next half-century behind the Iron Curtain.

Families who risked everything to save lives in the 1940s are only now getting recognized for their contributions.

'The documentary gods'

Rachel Goslins, who directed the documentary, is as familiar as anyone with the history of the war.

In her first short film, “Onderduiken,” she recounted her family’s ordeal hiding from the Nazis in the Netherlands. Yet Goslins said she was “gobsmacked” when she first heard about Gershman’s discoveries in Albania.

 “It just seemed like such an important piece of history,” Goslins said. She was even more amazed when she and her crew came across Hoxha.

Hoxha’s quest to return the books that were placed under his father’s protection brings the story of what happened decades ago into recent times, illustrating how the principles of besa have endured.

When she heard about Hoxha’s mission, Goslins said she thought that “the documentary gods have dropped a gift in your path.”

The film takes Goslins and her crew from Albania to Israel, charting Hoxha’s commitment to a promise he inherited from his father and his fear of passing it on to his son. Until he finds the family that his parents' sheltered during the war, he continues to carry a burden.

'We did nothing special. It’s besa!'

For some in Albania, the recognition they’re starting to receive for their Holocaust heroics has come as a surprise. The concept of sacrifice is so deeply rooted in Albanian culture that many do not understand why they are considered unique.

Time and time again, when Gershman visited the families of Albanians who had sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, he found people who were quick to downplay the significance of that act.

Gershman recalls how one man, whose parents had been involved in the effort to save Jews, said to him, “So what? Anyone in Albania would have done the same thing. We did nothing special. It’s besa!”

The concept stipulates that a person must put his guest’s safety above that of himself and his family. One Albanian man told Gershman, “I’d sooner have my son killed than break my besa.”

Gershman said, “Anyone in need, if they knock on your door, you have an absolute obligation to save them, to take care of them, irrespective of if they’re friends, enemies, whatever."

The lessons of besa

The makers of “Besa: The Promise” said they see the film as a lesson in interfaith cooperation. “Seeing Muslims as heroes, and seeing them as heroes to Jews, is not a particularly common story in our world,” Goslins said.

That’s something she said she hopes she can change.

It’s a message that has become a mission for Gershman, whose collection of photographs from Albania has been exhibited around the world and who has published a book called “Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II.”

Gershman takes the stories he heard in Albania to middle and high schools in the United States. He said he hopes to introduce the concept of besa to a new generation, thousands of miles from Albania.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science • Holocaust • Islam • Judaism • Movies

soundoff (512 Responses)
  1. Nope!

    God bless Albanians and their small, but beautiful country!
    "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you" -This is the promise from God of Israel, who is God over all. Nations of the world, TAKE HEED!

    August 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Valjaa

      ISRAEL SHOULD RECOGNIZE KOSOVO 🙂

      August 9, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  2. Agon

    We have the same story as Israel that's why some people like Jews here in Albania and Kosovo.
    Because they are a "nation" of 7 millions surrounded by Arabs who plan everyday destroying their state &killing all of them
    and we are a nation in Balkans of 7 millions ppl surrounded by Slavs which came from Caucasus and who wants to eat us alive on our land 🙁

    August 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  3. Nope!

    "During one of humanity’s darkest chapters, when millions of Jews, gays, communists and racial minorities were rounded up ..."
    Ah, you had to throw in "gays", as to equal them with the rest of persecuted suffering injustices!
    They are not fighting for human rights, but to legalize their perverted, ungodly life stiles! It has nothing to do with plight of those suffering for injustice!

    August 4, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      You are an ignorant p.rick.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Nope!

      If "not" ignorant means to be the way you are, then I'll gladly stay the way I am! LOL! 🙂

      August 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • portis

      The Holocaust is over PERIOD. That is what comes out of the Jews all times. 67 years have passed. Move on! It just makes me sick that they play the victims in 2012! Come on!

      August 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Teaching The Ignorant

      You do realize that for centuries, the Jews were regarded by Europeans as having a perverted, ungodly lifestyle?

      We gays know that the dream of fundamentalists is to put the pink triangle on us again and pull a Warsaw Ghetto. Well, if you try it, we're going to do what the residents of the Ghetto did and fight back. Never again.

      August 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • .

      When referring to the Jews, no one is referring to ma and pa every day citizen. The reference is towards the upper snot nosed echelon that don't practice the Torah. Never did, never will.

      August 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Frank

      Hey Portis...

      Maybe you don't watch the news. Every day we see the middle east IMAMS, Clerics, etc pushing for the annihilation of all the JEWS! Moron. Move on? If you have 1.7 billion maniacs hollering and training their children to slaughter an entire religion and people from the earth, how exactly to you propose THEY MOVE ON!?

      August 5, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  4. Rainer Braendlein

    Hitler was not a Christian.

    What was the reason of the Holocaust? Only Hitler's ill delusion?

    I guess that the Holocaust has something to do with the French Revolution, when the godless mob took over rule 1789-1799 in France. Up to this terrible event Europe had been the Christian Occident (today some moronic politicians still say that Europe would still be the Christian Occident, but that is a nonsense). Up to the French Revolution Europe was quite Christian, whereby, of course, the pope had caused some serious distortion of true Christianity. Every now and again Jews were persecuted, but not in the way like the Nazis did it. The French Revolution infected also Germany and workers began to revolt. The point is that by the French Revolution a process of destruction of the Christian heritage of Europe began. This prepared the soil for Nationalsocialism and Holocaust.

    Some demands of the workers were okay, but the great mistake of the labor movement was its godlessness which was outrageous regarding the history of the Christian Occident. Hence, a lot of established Germans resisted that movement and a long lasting struggle emerged which actually lasts up today. The issue is that the demands of the workers are justified, but their political impact always causes damage and destruction of the economy.

    Intellectual Jews were leaders and founders of the labor movement of the 19th century. In the same century Jews, also ordinary Jews, had got great relief by the conservative German state. They were allowed to built big synagogues, had own newspapers, could become politicans, soldiers, scientists, artists, writers, merchants, bankers, etc.. In the end of the 19th century a German Jew had the same rights like a native German, and they even called themselves Germans of Jewish faith.

    German Jews fighted for Germany in the First World War which was a showdown of the European nations. It was very bad, but not as bad as the Second World War. Both wars cannot be compared with each other.

    Now comes the decisive point. Even during the First World War the labor movement promoted great strikes of German industrial workers. The conservative German Establishment and military certainly perceived that as betrayal and the stab-in the back legend was born. It is a legend, because probably Germany had lost the war even without strikes.

    Hitler's logic was simple: Jews were responsible for the destructive labor movement, the labar movement was responsible for the defeat of the WWI by promoting strikes, hence the Jews were the misfortune of Germany.

    Hence, the Holocaust was simply a revenge of Hitler and some Germans which he had seduced for the defeat of the WWI.

    Of course, there was a second problem that many German Jews had easy jobs which caused the envy of the Germans. But that alone had not caused the Holocaust. The decisive virus was the stab-in-the-back legend, made-up by the conservative Germany military (Ludendorff, Hindenburgh) and pronounced by the Mouth Hitler.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    August 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Frank

      The holocaust, Hitler and ISLAM all have the same thing in common. Exterminate everyone unlike themselves and take over the world. Its no secret, read Hitlers Mein Kampf then read the Koran, you'll clearly see they both have the same goal and principles!

      August 5, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • Frank

      And in light of the comparison of the Koran and Hitlers Mein Kampf, Mein Kampf is banned in Germany and the U.S. military puts on white gloves before they can touch NOW.

      That just goes to show you how backwards our world is today and that we are headed for our demise with the current leadership in the world.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  5. Chicagothug

    WHY? Tell me WHY people on this site can't :-

    # Read an article and comment on IT
    # Stay on topic and NOT launch into inanity and selfishness
    # Give credit where it's due
    # Appreciate the POSITIVE
    Do NOT use any and every opportunity to force your own ignorant bigotry on the rest of us! Thank you.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Darryl S

      Because most of the people who make snide, bigoted, hateful comments do it to get a rise out of others. They want to inflame you because it gives them a momentary feeling of power and control in their otherwise drap and dull existance.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Nuri Ilirian

      They do what you say because they are racist and ignorant and can't stand the fact that Albanian Muslims are getting credit for helping Jews. If Albanian Christian families helped Jews , I would not be mad but proud. I just can't understand why thou they need to always be negative about us even when credit is due.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Theresa

    What I don't agree with in this article, is the stressing of "Muslim" people did this and "Muslim" people did that...It's true that Albanians would help and protect everyone who asks them for aid, but that has nothing to do with being Muslim or Catholic (as in my mother's family) or Orthodox...it's just about being Albanian first and foremost.
    Also, Albania was completely Christian before the Ottoman empire took over for nearly 450 years

    August 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Nuri Ilirian

      Theresa why do you dislike Muslim Albanians so much? I do not feel such hate towards you. If it wasn't for Muslim Albanians , today there would not be an Albania or Kosovo. They would have been assimilated by Greeks or Serbians.
      Look at what happened to the Arvanite Albanians? They were Christian Albanians that are now near extinction in Greece, even though they formed nearly half the population of southern Greece (Athens) in the 19th century. It only took 100 years or 3 generations for the Greeks to assimilate them and now they call themselves Greeks.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arvanites

      August 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Joana Mukaj

      @ Nuri Lirian
      Theresa does not hate muslims, If you are a true albanian than you know that other than besa there was the saying " Religion of Albanians is Albania".

      November 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  7. ROCKWOOD

    interesting article.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      ROCKWOOD – You are a star! An absolute Gem. You are the ONLY person who has READ the article and commented on IT –
      You didn't completely ignore it in favor of going off at a tangent with your own tin-pot rant or bigotry. For that I salute you.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  8. Rainer Braendlein

    It is a great mistake to assume that The Holocaust had something to do with the persecution of Jews during the dark age by the Catholic Church. Hitler may have used the "Christian" presentiments against the Jews, but his own motivation was political.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    Hitler was a Darwinist.

    What was the reason of the Holocaust? Only Hitler's ill delusion?

    I guess that the Holocaust has something to do with the French Revolution, when the godless mob took over rule 1789-1799 in France. Up to this terrible event Europe had been the Christian Occident (today some moronic politicians still say that Europe would still be the Christian Occident, but that is a nonsense). Up to the French Revolution Europe was quite Christian, whereby, of course, the pope had caused some serious distortion of true Christianity. Every now and again Jews were persecuted, but not in the way like the Nazis did it. The French Revolution infected also Germany and workers began to revolt. The point is that by the French Revolution a process of destruction of the Christian heritage of Europe began. This prepared the soil for Nationalsocialism and Holocaust.

    Some demands of the workers were okay, but the great mistake of the labor movement was its godlessness which was outrageous regarding the history of the Christian Occident. Hence, a lot of established Germans resisted that movement and a long lasting struggle emerged which actually lasts up today. The issue is that the demands of the workers are justified, but their political impact always causes damage and destruction of the economy.

    Intellectual Jews were leaders and founders of the labor movement of the 19th century. In the same century Jews, also ordinary Jews, had got great relief by the conservative German state. They were allowed to built big synagogues, had own newspapers, could become politicans, soldiers, scientists, artists, writers, merchants, bankers, etc.. In the end of the 19th century a German Jew had the same rights like a native German, and they even called themselves Germans of Jewish faith.

    German Jews fighted for Germany in the First World War which was a showdown of the European nations. It was very bad, but not as bad as the Second World War. Both wars cannot be compared with each other.

    Now comes the decisive point. Even during the First World War the labor movement promoted great strikes of German industrial workers. The conservative German Establishment and military certainly perceived that as betrayal and the stab-in the back legend was born. It is a legend, because probably Germany had lost the war even without strikes.

    Hitler's logic was simple: Jews were responsible for the destructive labor movement, the labar movement was responsible for the defeat of the WWI by promoting strikes, hence the Jews were the misfortune of Germany.

    Hence, the Holocaust was simply a revenge of Hitler and some Germans which he had seduced for the defeat of the WWI.

    Of course, there was a second problem that many German Jews had easy jobs which caused the envy of the Germans. But that alone had not caused the Holocaust. The decisive virus was the stab-in-the-back legend, made-up by the conservative Germany military (Ludendorff, Hindenburgh) and pronounced by the Mouth Hitler.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    August 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What do you mean "Hitler was a Darwinist". Evolution is a fact of science, you can't not be a "Darwinist".

      August 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Darwinism is Anti-Christianity, because according to Darwin only the strongest ones shall survive.

      Jesus was a physican of the ill ones and the weak ones. Jesus wants everybody to live and to become happy, even disabled people, stupid people, ugly people, ... .

      August 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      Rainer B – Excellent response. I've never heard Darwinism explained SO well – or so preciseley in one sentence before! Thank you, friend.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The opinions of a man who's existence can't even be proven don't change science.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Chicago

      So you've never heard the phrase survival of the fittest. Have you lived in a cave for the last 100+ years?

      August 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • my child is retarded

      rational libertarian is a hate filled bigot who denies civil rights to the mentally challenged

      August 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Mike

      Darwins theory of survival of the fittest does not say that only the strong should survive. Darwin defined one who is fit has one who can procreate and fittest as being one who has procreated. What you are talking about is called sociald darwinism, and even though it has darwins name in it, has nothing to do with Darwin's theories. Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest was later hijacked by social elite and rich land owners and perverted into this modern day interpretation of "only the strong should survive," in an attempt legitimize those elite's subjugation of the poor and near enslaved. This was done in argument against the starving in europe in the 19th century as a campaign against state welfare. The concept is those who had wealth had it because they were better and stronger and those who did not deserved to die because that was nature. These were the concepts put forth by undeserving wealthy bigots and not scientists and not Darwin. Try reading book instead of living your whole life as ani ignorant inbred hill jack.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  10. collfar5000

    Mother Teresa was Albanian by birth (although she became a citizen of Indian later in life). Her family was Catholic.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      And she was a complete charlatan, syphoning money to give to the Vatican, as if they needed it. And she preached against condoms in a place that really needed some practical, scientific advice on reproduction.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • my child is retarded

      and rational libertarian used hate filled rants against the mentally challenged, this bigot should be exposed and protested for the hate speech it spews

      August 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      Rational Libertarian [wow! That's an oxyoron for a start!] Either produce written proof of your accusation against a SAINT or keep quiet.
      She may have refused to supply condoms in accordance with church teaching – but she SURE looked after babies and children and through her they were educated.
      She picked up the poor, dying, infectious, diseased and filthy from the gutters Of Calcutta when their fellow Indians stepped over them in the street. How dare YOU disrespect that nun! Do you hate to see goodness shining in a cruel world, or WHAT?

      So please just put up or shut up! And provide the proof........I'll wait

      August 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Read the Missionary Position by Hitchens. Lifts the lid on the W.hore of Calcutta. Saint my ass.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • my child is retarded

      Do not listen to hate speech from rational? libertarian you are endorsing a hate group

      August 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      The proof about Mother Theresa's wonderfulness.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il4CsZaA610&feature=player_detailpage

      August 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  11. pat

    It is true, there are moderate, peaceful, muslims in the world-but they are the exception NOT the rule! Just look at the Koran-
    the number of times it is stated to kill the infidels (non believers-jews and people of the "west") boggles the mind! I pray for peace, as we all should, but as stated before-moderate muslims,some-YES; a moderate Islam-most definitely NO;
    The word "jihad" translated: struggle, so also the translation of Hitler's "mien kampf" –a very eery coincidence? I don't think so!

    August 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Read the Old Testament. Basically anybody who wasn't in the Israeli tribe was a target for genocide.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Guest

      Most of those verses came when muslims were in the battlefield facing others. What message do you think would be appropriate in a battlefield?

      August 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Guest

      I'm guessing you are not a hate mongerer. Please read those verses in their contexts. You'll find them perfectly logical and acceptable.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Ephraim

      Pat, you are an example of prejudice caused by miseducation. There are 2.2 billion Muslims in the world. If most were violent it would be a very different world. There are no mentions in the Quran of killing people in the west however as most religious text the Quran does speak of violence. By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane," he says. "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide."

      It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: "And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them," God says through the prophet Samuel. "But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

      August 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • jimmy

      Exception not the rule?? Do you realize how many muslims there are on the earth. And how many predmonantly muslim countries there are that are either moderate and or friends of the west? And how many muslims live in this country? Even in predominantly muslim countires, do you know how many muslims that go about their business every day without too much care for politics or what other people do? You need to get out more and do more research before you make a false statement. I would agree there are a significant number of muslims that are extreme, much much more than you would find in other religions. But the use of excpetion not the rule points to a very small percentage which is not accurate.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • HJ

      Rational Libertarian, your claim that anyone who wasn't Israeli in the Old Testament was a 'target for genocide' is FALSE. In the OT there were many instances where non-Israelis were accepted as friends. When Solomon dedicated the temple to God he explicitly prayed to God that the 'strangers' in the land would be welcome and treated fairly and be allowed to worship God at the Temple just as the Jews were. I'd say the Israelis were just as tolerant when they first moved into the promised land as Europeans were tolerant of Native Americans when they invaded North America but later after they had won the land they became much more tolerant. Still even during the conqueroring period there were instances of kindness.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • GATORpride

      Muslims practice a religion that hasn't been changed or altered like the Christian bibles for example from the old testament to the King James version.This is why there the bible is full of contradictions within it's texts due to interpretation. Educate yourself before you compare a muslim to Hitler. "Jihad" means great struggle, but only in the sense when their people are threatened by destruction not to annihilation the west especially when Israel or Western civilization didn't much exist during the birth of Islam. The term is more of going to war or battlefield term. Syria is claiming Jihad with their own government.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      HJ

      I know this, but if I was kicking about the place in the desert at that time and I wasn't a Jew (or definitely if I was a Canaanite or Midianite), I'd have avoided the Jews as best as I could.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • portis

      I agree 100%. During and after WWII Palestinians, under a British controlled State, welcomed many displaced Jews. Afterwards little by little, with the help of the UK and the US. They decided to bit the hand that fed them. Now they refuse that Palestinians should be part of what was stolen from them. It is time that both sides come to terms by living in peace and stop murdering children and each other. We as a Country give $3 Billion dollars to Israel on a yearly basis. No wonder they are experts in making weapons. It is time to negotiate and that They pray to whatever God Israel believes in.

      August 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  12. bill

    The rich have had it to good for to long! It is time for our share of the handouts. Just check this out. GOOGLE the term " CRAZY CASH TEACHER " and click the first site. Then click on the PENNY STOCK page to see what the rich are hiding from us. It is time we all get our share and this will help. If you want to see how some of these yahoos made their millions off of us, then this is a must see!

    August 4, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What's mine is mine. You'd have to take it out of my cold dead hands.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    What was the reason of the Holocaust? Only Hitler's ill delusion?

    I guess that the Holocaust has something to do with the French Revolution, when the godless mob took over rule 1789-1799 in France. Up to this terrible event Europe had been the Christian Occident (today some moronic politicians still say that Europe would still be the Christian Occident, but that is a nonsense). Up to the French Revolution Europe was quite Christian, whereby, of course, the pope had caused some serious distortion of true Christianity. Every now and again Jews were persecuted, but not in the way like the Nazis did it. The French Revolution infected also Germany and workers began to revolt. The point is that by the French Revolution a process of destruction of the Christian heritage of Europe began. This prepared the soil for Nationalsocialism and Holocaust.

    Some demands of the workers were okay, but the great mistake of the labor movement was its godlessness which was outrageous regarding the history of the Christian Occident. Hence, a lot of established Germans resisted that movement and a long lasting struggle emerged which actually lasts up today. The issue is that the demands of the workers are justified, but their political impact always causes damage and destruction of the economy.

    Intellectual Jews were leaders and founders of the labor movement of the 19th century. In the same century Jews, also ordinary Jews, had got great relief by the conservative German state. They were allowed to built big synagogues, had own newspapers, could become politicans, soldiers, scientists, artists, writers, merchants, bankers, etc.. In the end of the 19th century a German Jew had the same rights like a native German, and they even called themselves Germans of Jewish faith.

    German Jews fighted for Germany in the First World War which was a showdown of the European nations. It was very bad, but not as bad as the Second World War. Both wars cannot be compared with each other.

    Now comes the decisive point. Even during the First World War the labor movement promoted great strikes of German industrial workers. The conservative German Establishment and military certainly perceived that as betrayal and the stab-in the back legend was born. It is a legend, because probably Germany had lost the war even without strikes.

    Hitler's logic was simple: Jews were responsible for the destructive labor movement, the labar movement was responsible for the defeat of the WWI by promoting strikes, hence the Jews were the misfortune of Germany.

    Hence, the Holocaust was simply a revenge of Hitler and some Germans which he had seduced for the defeat of the WWI.

    Of course, there was a second problem that many German Jews had easy jobs which caused the envy of the Germans. But that alone had not caused the Holocaust. The decisive virus was the stab-in-the-back legend, made-up by the conservative Germany military (Ludendorff, Hindenburgh) and pronounced by the Mouth Hitler.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    August 4, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Hitler was Catholic

      Hitler was saved according to his faith. He is probably sipping margaritas pool-side with Jesus right now, laughing about how Gandhi is in hell because he was born in the wrong part of the world.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Hitler believed in Darwinism.

      Hitler was baptized Catholic, but he turned apostate from Catholicism during his youth.

      When Hitler delivered a speech he pretended to be a Christian because he needed the Catholic and Protestant Germans as soldiers. If Hitler had publically declared Atheism, the Germans had forsaken him.

      Hitler's real faith was Darwinism that the strongest one will prevail.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Evangelicide

      I'm a former World Civilizations teacher, and all I can say is I'm spellbound by your imbecilic interpretation of history. I have to tip my hat to you regarding how you rationalize how pre WWII persecution of Jews was anomalous for a faith that, from your perspective, promotes tolerance.

      However, since this is "belief" blog and not, say, "logic" or "common sense" blog, I have no doubt that you will be praised for your scintillating revisionism.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      Hitler was a catholic – It's obvious you are limited by your ignorance. Hitler CALLED HIMSELF A CATHOLIC. There is a big difference. To BE a Catholic, you live WITH the Sacraments an BY the Creed and the Commandments. It you don't do that you are APOSTATE. Get an adult to explain what that means.

      You see, little ignoramus, I could call myself Paris Hilton – it wouldn't make me RICH!

      August 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Roscoe Chait

      You keep posting your nonsense over and over again, as if reposting makes it it less stupid and insane.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0V1vzl2wu0&feature=player_detailpage

      August 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  14. Renato

    Additional information on Albanian Muslims and Jews here: http://resources.ushmm.org/inquery/uia_doc.php/photos/5925?hr=null

    August 4, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  15. gjilberta lucaj

    Seyf, this is from your vast knowledge of living in Albania being and Albanian and knowing the history of Albania?.
    Ignorant remarks are fine with me, I just hoped I'd get better responses.
    Our main hero (who saved most of the Europe from the Ottoman Empire) is called Gjergj Kastrioti (aka) Skenderbeu. The son of Christian family who has monuments all over Europe.
    I was raised in Albania and the facts of Ottoman Empire forcing the Muslim religion on us is in our history books in our schools.
    My comment was that this article stresses the fact that Muslim people helped Jews as a way to ameliorate the situation between Jews and Muslim people...WHAT I MEANT, IS THAT ALBANIANS HAVE ALWAYS PUT FIRST AND FOREMOST ALBANIAN HERITAGE AND THEN RELIGION. AN ENVIABLE TRAIT YOU DON'T SEE IN ANY OTHER COUNTRY.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  16. ali

    its weird, when jews were being killed in europe during the dark ages it was the muslim empires such as ottomons who provided them safe heavens, therefore, many of montreal jews are from muslim north africa and other muslim countries. It is weird that israel would tell jews that palestinians and other muslims want to kill them but why muslims did not kill them when muslims were in power and europe would have liked muslims for killing jews and now when muslims are unable to protect themselves throughout the world be it in balkans, syria, iraq, afghanistan, burma, or russia they want to kill far more powerful jews in israel (not including the terrorist state of Iran, Iran is responsible for terrorism not just in Israel but in many other countries including neighboring muslim countries too)

    August 4, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  17. Rainer Braendlein

    What was the reason of the Holocaust? Only Hitler's ill delusion?

    I guess that the Holocaust has something to do with the French Revolution, when the godless mob took over rule 1789-1799 in France. Up to this terrible event Europe had been the Christian Occident (today some moronic politician still say that Europe would be still be the Christina Occident, but that is a nonsense). Up to the French Revolution Europe was quite Christian, whereby, of course, the pope had caused some serious distortion of true Christianity. Every now and again Jews were persecuted, but not in the way like the Nazis did it. The French Revolution infected also Germany and workers began to revolt. The point is that by the French Revolution a process of destruction of the Christian heritage of Europe began. This prepared the soil for Nationalsocialism and Holocaust.

    Some demands of the workers were okay, but the great mistake of the labor movement was its godlessness which was outrageous regarding the history of the Christian Occident. Hence, a lot of established Germans resisted that movement and a long lasting struggle emerged which actually lasts up today. The issue is that the demands of the workers are justified, but their political impact always causes damage and destruction of the economy.

    Intellectual Jews were leaders and founders of the labor movement of the 19th century. In the same century Jews, also ordinary Jews, had got great relief by the conservative German state. They were allowed to built big synagogues, had own newspapers, could become politicans, soldiers, scientists, artists, writers, merchants, bankers, etc.. In the end of the 19th century a German Jew had the same rights like a native German, and they even called themselves Germans of Jewish faith.

    German Jews fighted for Germany in the First World War which was a showdown of the European nations. It was very bad, but not as bad as the Second World War. Both wars cannot be compared with each other.

    Now comes the decisive point. Even during the First World War the labor movement promoted great strikes of German industrial workers. The conservative German Establishment and military certainly perceived that as betrayal and the stab-in the back legend was born. It is a legend, because probably Germany had lost the war even without strikes.

    Hitler's logic was simple: Jews were responsible for the destructive labor movement, the labar movement was responsible for the defeat of the WWI by promoting strikes, hence the Jews were the misfortune of Germany.

    Hence, the Holocaust was simply a revenge of Hitler and some Germans which he had seduced for the defeat of the WWI.

    Of course, there was a second problem that many German Jews had easy jobs which caused the envy of the Germans. But that alone had not caused the Holocaust. The decisive virus was the stab-in-the-back legend, made-up by the conservative Germany military (Ludendorff, Hindenburgh) and pronounced by the Mouth Hitler.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    August 4, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Hitler was Catholic

      Hitler was saved according to his faith. He is probably sipping margaritas pool-side with Jesus right now, laughing about how Gandhi is in hell because he was born in the wrong part of the world.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Hitler was baptized Catholic, but he turned apostate from Catholicism during his youth.

      When Hitler delivered a speech he pretended to be a Christian because he needed the Catholic and Protestant Germans as soldiers. If Hitler had publically declared Atheism, the Germans had forsaken him.

      Hitler's real faith was Darwinism that the strongest one will prevail.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Roscoe Chait

      Why do you keep posting your same nonsense over and over again? Reposting doesn't make it less stupid and insane.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  18. More Secular, More Altruism

    Religion should not be a barrier to helping people.

    Oliner and Oliner (1988) and Varese and Yaish (2000), in their studies of heroic altruism during the Holocaust, found that the more secular people were, the more likely they were to rescue and help persecuted Jews.

    From: http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

    August 4, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Joseph Mzputrnski

      sure they are....lets ignore the 100s of millions murdered by atheists in the years during WWII and shortly thereafter, and pretend that some isolated acts by nuts (atheists are almost always mental defectives who hate God for making them freaks, instead of understanding God knew normal folks needed freaks to laugh at: hence the creation of atheists) was the rule.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Chicagothug

      Joseph – Good for you! People always ignore the fact that more people have beenkilled by ATHEISTS in the last 120 years – than ALL the religious wars in history.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  19. NativeUSA

    The difference between old school European muslims and new school mideast ones..........
    When one puts what is right above religious or political fanatics.........like democrats now, spreading hate and division with gutter politics out of a Chicago sewer.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  20. gjilberta lucaj

    My mother just told me that her parents welcomed a jewish family in their house for a few months, until they moved to a house in the same neighborhood and lived there for years. she used to play with a girl named Roberta...they left years after.
    What I don't agree with in this article, is the stressing of "Muslim" people did this and "Muslim" people did that...It's true that Albanians would help and protect everyone who asks them for aid, but that has nothing to do with being Muslim or Catholic (as in my mother's family) or Orthodox...it's just about being Albanian first and foremost.
    Also, Albania was completely Christian before the Ottoman empire took over for nearly 450 years and killed everyone who would refuse to adopt the Muslim religion.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Seyf

      Well, the statement regarding Ottomans' killing everyone refusing to adopt Islam is a clear lie, falsehood at best. The evidence is the vast number of non-Muslim population in particular of the Balkans and other European land who lived before, during and after the rule of the Ottoman state.
      This lie or falsehood sheds a question mark on all of the rest of what you have written lucaj. Have some shame and try again, but this time more respectful of the truth.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • abe

      Ottomans kill all non muslims? when did this happen? Oh right it didn't, what a digusting lie.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Susan

      Seyf: while it's not technically true that all people who refused to convert to Islam were killed, I can tell you from the experience of my Orthodox Christian grandparents that living under Islam as a religious minority is a horrific experience. Sorry, but your faith ain't the religion of peace and tolerance that you'd like us to believe it is.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Chicagothug

      True the King of Denmark ordered every Dane [with HIM the first to do so] to wear a yellow star, when the Germans ordered Jews to wear them!
      There are acts of incredible bravery in many places involving sheltering Jews.
      BUT
      This article is about the ALBANIANS who did so. Please try to stay on topic and give these people the credit they deserve. This IS news because due to the modesty of the Albanians, no-one heard of it before now! Peace – Shalom – Salaam!

      August 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Nuri Ilirian

      gjilberta why do you have to lie about the Ottomans killing everyone who did not convert to Islam? This is the age of knowledge and easy access to information, we no longer can be fooled into believing fiction.

      The fact is that Albanians while being one of Europe's first to accept Christianity, also were one of Europe's first to accept Islam. I am proud of my ancestors to accept Christianity 1st and then Islam because its a natural succession. The Abrahamic religions are one and the same. They have more in common with each other than differences.

      If people on Earth looked at what they have in common instead of differences there would be peace on Earth.

      Your thinking of lies and fiction are what bring wars and misery to the world.

      Shame on you...

      August 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Joana Mukaj

      @ Nuri Ilirian
      Really Nuri? Yes the turks did kill if you did not convert, or they took yours sons to war, took your land away from you and charged so much tax on Christian population that the families were forced to convert to have a tax reduction, I still have the original papers of my family convertion to Islam,
      Why do you think Albanian welcomed BEKTASHI religion with open arms and made their own rule, I am BEKTASHI and a proud one, we drink alcohol, eat pork, dance, sing, don't let the women cover, do ashure and not ramazan, we don't go to mosque we go to teqe, we don't have an imam we have a baba? Are these the actual rules of the BEKTASHI religion, maybe not all of it but hey this is what my family passed down to me and I will follow it. So don't tell me or the people here that the Islam religion was embraced by the Albanians, it was forced to us just like the rest of the other religions. Were we catholic and orthodox once upon a time? Yes we were, were these religions forced to us? Yes/Maybe. if you are embracing Islam, good for you, but please don't try to say that this religion or any other religion for that matter was peacefully embraced by the Albanians because it is offensive to me and the rest of non religious Albanians. Last words -Shqiptare mos shiko Kisha and Xhamija – Feja e Shqiptarit eshte Shqiptaria. If you a true blooded Albanian you will understand the above phrase.

      November 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
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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.