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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.

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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. Andy M

    I wish more people would understand that there are many great human beings in every corner of the world, from every religion, and from every social stratus. Humanity can be displayed by all of us and generalizing about any group is not a wise choice. Ultimately we all want the best for our family and friends; things were very different during WWII, we should appreciate the great sacrifice they made for people who were in need at the time. (Genocide)

    August 5, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • acutabove

      Well said. But to find a cure for all the violence, we need a diagnosis. The world can never begin to stop the killings until we can understand the source. Today we cannot even talk about killing in the name of Allah because of political correctness.

      I suspect CNN ran this story about this great man because it ran two stories in the past two days abput Muslim atrocities and it does not want to upset The Religion Of Peace.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:08 am |
    • Blog me blog you

      He
      Probably
      Didn't
      Know
      They were
      Je ws

      Bwa hahahahahaha

      August 5, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  2. Good people

    What a diamond that shines in that culture regarding that protective belief. No sense being depressed about the world;
    there's always someone doing more than you are ( or me) to make the world a better place.

    August 5, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  3. zhitia nga llapi i KOSOVES

    Shqiptaret nuk i perqan as ni fe apo religion sepse kan ,TRADITEN E MOQME TE NDERIT ILIRAN,POPULLI TRIM;I PASTER NE GJAK ME BESE E KANUN,religionet i prun te huajt ,,KURSE TRADITEN E GJUHEN NA I DERGOI ZOTI,,Shqiptaret nuk jan barbar e shovenista si greku e sllavi.

    August 5, 2012 at 2:52 am |
  4. Isa

    seems like Islamiophobes get upset when Muslims do good cause they only do bad right??? SMH

    August 5, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • acutabove

      Didn't Sunnis commit about 70% of all the terrorist murders in the entire world? And that was only one sect of Islam. So many, many misunderstanders of Islam, including many Imans and clerics....

      "Al-Azhar Cleric Hashem Islam Ali Islam: Suicide Bombings Are a Religious Duty," (and pleasing to Allah!)

      August 5, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  5. Ordinary American

    So many people just love find reasons to hate on muslims even if they're not doing anything wrong, smh

    August 5, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • AlienShark

      200 years ago Native Americans were demonized and called barbarians while they were slaughtered and if you study the historical events you will find many similarities between the genocide and accompanying propaganda against the Native Americans and what is happening today.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  6. AlienShark

    They are trying to write it out of history, but up until the modern era, Muslims were the friends and protectors of the Jews. The Jews received horrible treatment, persecution and sickening torture at the hands of the Europeans for hundreds and hundreds of years and it was in Muslim lands they found protection and peace. Hopefully the world will change in favor of peace within our lifetimes.

    August 5, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • joydbrower

      Yes, indeed, Jews did find "peace" and prosperity in "Muslim lands" for many years – but, as non-believers (in Allah), they were still considered second-class citizens and mostly had to pay a jizya – or tax just bec. they weren't muslim. It was more important for the Pasha (of the Turkish caliphate) to collect taxes and other "fines" from non-believers than just persecute and/or kill them. Of course, this prevailed in Spain for centuries – that is, until the Crusaders defeated the Turks (muslims) and then, of course, inaugurated the dreaded Inquisition. Centuries later, of course, since anti-Semitism was the rule, not the exception, they remained "persecuted" in Europe and throughout the MIddle East – until, in the 20th century, and over many decades, they were pretty much kicked out of all Mid East countries where there had once been flourishing Jewish communities. The same thing is happening now to the Christians – and it won't be long before they, too, won't be inhabiting what has always been their traditional home(s).

      August 5, 2012 at 3:23 am |
    • acutabove

      Muhammud got his start by wiping out Jews after breaking a peace treaty and he is the standard that all Muslims should follow according to Islam. The Koran is full of quotes hating Jews and calling upon their murders. Presnt day Imans, Clerics, and national leaders (Iran) still call for the annihilation of Israel and and the death of all Jews.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:42 am |
    • acutabove

      Recently a Pakistani religious leader, Pirzada Muhammad Raza Saqib Mustafai, said: 'When The Jews Are Wiped Out... The Sun Of Peace Would Begin To Rise On The Entire World'.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  7. reasonablebe

    Here is a people with true honor and ethics, true heros. We should all learn and strive to be as caring and humane.

    August 5, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  8. Roscoe Chait

    CNN is promoting a story that, unfortunately, is about an isolated handful of Muslim Albanians that helped Jews more than 67 years ago. It is ancient history that does not apply to today. And it has never applied ever to the Middle East.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Rover21

      You're probably right, but maybe we can take in a lesson on humanity

      August 5, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Samuel

      If you don't agree with the Jews your a racist and now if you have helped them it's irrelevant. I wonder if Roscoe would risk his life for someone totally different from himself? I doubt it.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • WhiteMuslim

      The middle east makes up a very small portion of the Muslim world, and they sure do not represent how all Muslims are. If you follow pure Islam, without cultural deviations, you'd see it is a peaceful, caring way of life.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • joydbrower

      Actually, this is in response to White Muslim: You seem to believe that all is peaches & cream in islam, but how much do you REALLY know about sharia and all the laws to which a devout muslim must adhere? And how familiar are you with the Qu'ran and Hadith that outlines family relationships (man owns the woman,e.g. and her value is one-half of the man's, etc.) and, in fact, relationships with Jews ("pigs and monkeys" acc. to the Prophet). At the core of their beliefs is a very strong hatred for the "other" – and that, in particular, applies to Jews (as much as muslims keep saying that they honor the Jewish "prophet" Moses, etc.). Anyway, it's almost common knowledge – and, in some circles, pretty much of a joke – that the Religion of Peace (ROP) is anything BUT!! And this belief/"prejudice" is fueled everytime a jihadist shouts, "Allahu Akbar!" (God is the greatest!) Obviously, there are MANY bridges to mend and many beliefs to explain...

      August 5, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • Xhani

      Rescue Chait, I have no idea why CNN is trying to paint a religious colour over an ancient and noble Albanian tradition but BESA has nothing to do with any religion at all. Besa is a unique Albanian code of moral, a virtue of the Albanian culture. And this is not "about an isolated handful of Muslim Albanians that helped Jews". Although a lot of other countries and nations helped the Jews, Albania is the only country in Europe where not even one single Jew was betrayed and given to the nazis. And, as a matter of fact, this did not happen only with Jews. We also helped the Italians who had occupied us and were our enemies. When the nazis came and started to kill them we took those Italian soldiers who had just been our enemies in our homes and protected them.
      BESA is such a unique virtue that is impossible to translate it to another language. But the meaning is that if someone knockes at your door and asks for help, even if this someone is your worst enemy ever, an Albanian is bound by this unique code of moral, this unparalleled tradition, to help and protect that person no matter what. Once again, this code of moral has nothing to do with the religion. This is a part of the Albanian culture.

      August 5, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  9. Al

    Some ppl will find their way through every space of internet to talk crap and be disrespectful no matter what! Is not about you and is not about religion, is about TRADITION and how in Albania humanity prevailed over religion.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • atlin

      Well said.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • joydbrower

      Excellent point, Al! Indeed, I think (Albanian) TRADITION, rather than basic islam, explains why they were so dedicated to helping those who asked for help during that perilous time. And I hope they're recognized at both Yad Vashem and around the world for their moral courage!

      August 5, 2012 at 3:37 am |
  10. Canaan

    I wonder if the Holocaust took place today (after the birth of Jewish state Israel) if Muslims in Albania would still do this? I'm sure some will, but I would bet the outcome would be fewer today.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Al

      Dont see your point but just so you know we have always have helped ppl in need. It wasnt just the Jews it was the Italians too, when Germans occupied Albania and tried to kill every Italian in sight. My father's family helped four soldiers, never heard of them again didnt even receive a thank you and still they never regretted doing so.It's in our blood,culture and tradition to help one in need and it has nothing to do with religion or anything else.It has been like that for centuries and doubt it will ever change.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      You don't have to wonder. Just keep up with the news. Soon, the Muslims will be getting rounded up and gassed in large ovens or nuclear bunkers or something. Holocausting or Mass Genociding is a uniquely Christian / White European trait. Happens every hundred years. The white people go nuts. Start rounding up some minority or another and eliminating them like unwanted insects. Then there is peace for the remaining hundred years, while pointing fingers at the rest of the world as being barbarians. And then another million or ten million are put away. Repeat Cycle. This time, it appears its the turn of the Muslims. The jews and the chinese are too powerful at this time to let this happen to them. And with Jesus always there to forgive whatever holocausting you do, there is no worry that life eternal may be spent in hell, no matter who you fry, man or monkey.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  11. hajriz rexhepi

    besa is an albanian thing it doesnt metter what kind of religion u have .

    August 5, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  12. Donika

    Nuri Ilirian really… You should be ashamed for making such statements: “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.” Wow for someone who just said: "if people on earth looked at what they have in common instead of differences there would be peace on earth" you are nothing but a HYPOCRITE. From your posts I understand that religion is your priority as for most Albanians their nationality – being Albanian – has always been and still is a priority. One more thing BESA has existed in our culture way before the Ottoman Empire conquered our territories. What other Albanians are trying to point out here is that this tradition is not part of Islam but part of our culture. Hence, any Albanian regardless their religion would have done the same thing. Do not try to tell lies because we should be a good example for other countries. We have always lived in harmony although three different religions exist in our country. P.S. Gjergj Fishta qe ka shkruajtur vargje te tera kunder serbit, ka qene musliman apo katolik? Turp duhet te kesh qe I thua keto fjale. Sic e ka thene dhe Pashko Vasa “mos shikoni kisha e xhamia se feja e shqiptarit eshte shqiptaria” (besa e shqiptarit) :D.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • joydbrower

      Great reply, Donika! I love your straightforward explanation of the HUMANITY that infuses the Albanian people! And you are SO right (I was only surmising, but you actually KNOW!) – namely, it's TRADITION, not religion, the impels Albanians to provide this sort of life-giving hospitality! And, as you wisely pointed out, it certainly predates the muslim conquest by the Turks! (Wish I knew Albanian to appreciate your note at the end...)

      August 5, 2012 at 3:45 am |
  13. Brian

    "Nice story, too bad many Muslims today wouldn't hesitate to kill Jews.".........................

    What do you mean? Why would a Muslim want to kill a Jew?

    August 5, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      what he actually meant to say was that "too bad a muslim would nt hesitate to steal a predator drone from the christians americans in order to kill a jew"

      August 5, 2012 at 3:13 am |
  14. ud

    Despite any religion, christian, muslim, hindu...holocaust is one thing that moves any man with a heart. Please just dont raise the bar leading to some nonsensical religious argument here. If albanians are all muslim that makes them feel proud about their act of rescuing Jews we should be thankful to that. But my point here is any man with a heart must and should be moved to do that sort of rescuing when things like holocaust happens. And as albanians set an example lets say these people, instead of raising muslims here and entering into religious nonsense, we should say men and women of courage. By the way in all religions there are heroes who did these sort of acts.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  15. ILLYRIAN

    Albanians are [were] the last noble people of Europe. We lived with a code of honor, in which Islam and Christianity had a huge influence even that today's scholars try to hide the religious element. We Albanians sacrificed our lifes to protect jews, and we shared everything with them, which they should be thankful, and somehow they are, however they didnt recognize the Republic of Kosova as a independent state yet, which I believe they should have done right after US, but they didnt.

    Anyway, all that genocide that happened to Jews, they are doing the same thing to Palestinians today, which makes me curse my fathers and grandfather.... May peace be upon you!

    August 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Lauren

      A "palestinian" people does not exist. The so-called "palestinians" in Gaza and the West Bank are really syrians, egyptians, lebanese, jordanian, etc.. What genocide are you talking about?

      August 5, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Rover21

      Lauren, that's kind of like saying the word "American" doesn't exist.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • Robert

      Lauren, how ignorant are you? Really? Palestinians don't exist? What's the matter with you?

      August 5, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • joydbrower

      Oh-oh... Figured that the Palestinians would somehow enter the conversation! So, the Israelis are slaughtering "Paletinians?" It seems that the safest and most welcoming place for Arab/Muslims/Palestinians to live is Israel itself! It's the only democracy in the region and the only place that guarantees equal rights to all its citizens!

      As for the name itself, Palestine was the name given the region by the Romans (Palestina) in mockery of the Jews, whom they displaced (and, of course, also despised). Except that Jews and Arabs have always inhabited what is now the State of Israel; and until that state was founded (and declared valid by the UN) in 1948, ALL its residents ("citizens," if you will of the British Mandate) were called "Palestinians" – and, in particular, it usually referred to the JEWS who lived there! But Yassar Arafat, with help, money and advice from his patrons, the Soviets (and the Roumanians) was encouraged to call the land Palestine and its ARAB inhabitants (only) "Palestinians."

      Actually, it was one of the great political PR moves of the last century! And, as Arabs, they consisted of Jordanians, Egyptians (Arafat was an Egyptian) and others. There was NEVER a distinct and formal "Palestinian" people! In truth, the land that was ceded to them in the UN Treaty was actually Trans-Jordan (now just Jordan) – and all that land rightfully belongs/belonged to them. However, the Brits pulled a fast one and installed a Saudi nobody that hailed from "the Hashemite Kingdom," was ordained "royalty" of some sort – et voila, "King" of Jordan Hussein (and now his son Abdullah) rule the roost there – and keep most of the 3 generations of "Palestinian" refugees confined to refugee camps!! It's very sad, a bit complicated and totally evil/wrong – but the Jews can't be blamed for the muslim & British shenanigans!

      August 5, 2012 at 4:02 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Lauren is right! If Palestinians can whine that the land of Israel is rightfully theirs, how much more can Jews claim it since it was THEIRS long before Syrians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Jordanians came there to populate it!
      And speaking of genocide.... There are far more muslims killing each other among themselves, then Israelis killing them...... And isn't it always the case that Palestinians ar the instigators!? Then when they get the dose of "their own medicine", all the world hears is about "Israeli's carnage", but calls the bloodthirsty instigators "children"! LOL! How dumb this world can be,. especially naive, gullible Westerners! ...Cant's see further from their own noses!

      August 5, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Kuff

      If Palestine existed before 1948, what was it's capital? What form of government did it have? Who was it's ruler? What was it's national anthem? Can you name it's currency?

      August 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • ILLYRIAN

      d

      August 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  16. James

    True morality transcends religion.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • The Prophet

      Well said.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  17. hacham14

    Nice story, too bad many Muslims today wouldn't hesitate to kill Jews.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Epinoia

      And too bad so many right-wing Christians wouldn't hesitate to kill Muslims. And too bad so many right-wing Jews wouldn't hesitate to kill Muslims. That sword cuts both ways.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • SSampson

      SOME – But it should also should be noted that while the rhetoric includes religion, the main reason for those feeings come from the issue surrounding Palestine.... and that issue, in reality, is about land...

      The Quran actually says that Jews and Christians should be respected as fellow believers in the SAME god.... (paraphrased, yes, but it is stated clearly without any room for interpetation – more than once)... It includes Sabians which have similar roots also...

      It seems these days that there is SO much misleading information out there, it becomes hard to find the truth... and, of course anger clouds our quest to find the truth also – We often fail to be able to look beyond horrific events and group people together based on the actions of a minority.....

      August 5, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Kuff

      @SSampson
      Those Quaranic verses that say that Jews and Christians should be respected have been abrogated...that is replaced...by other more intolerant verses. Show us a verse where the Quaran says that Jews and Christians should be respected that was recorded during Islam's Meccan period. And, what about people not Jews or Christians? What does the Quaran say about those?

      August 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  18. CoolStory

    This story is not about Christian Europeans saving Jews. It's about Muslim Europeans who saved Jews. Don't forget that not one person was handed over to the Nazi's in Albania. Can you say the same for the Christian Europeans? And by the way Muslims are humans, we don't need this story to point it out. And if you are Christian or a Jew you by nature are Muslim (Someone who submits him/herself to God.) Muslims are the last and final people to receive the word of God.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • OpinionsToGo

      CoolStory, with your comment that " Muslims are the last and final people to receive the word of God" you seem to be forgetting about the Baha'is.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Aaron

      Godbless them and thank you with all my heart.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • lou50

      sounds good to me keep those and get rid of the rest as it ain't working with 1700 years of history.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • dan

      They're Albanians not Muslims.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • James

      "And if you are Christian or a Jew you by nature are Muslim (Someone who submits him/herself to God.) Muslims are the last and final people to receive the word of God."
      Seriously? You clearly haven't read them. Either that or you have the reading comprehension of an absolute moron. Do YOURSELF a favor, and read the books. You either believe in God and his desire to communicate with us or you don't.....but to say ridiculious things like your prior post is just plain idiocracy. Jesus saves, Muhammed was a lying pedophile who led more people astray than any human in history. That being said, God bless these muslims for saving their felllow man during the war, since it was in opposition to their quran, they must have had reservations concerning their "holy book"

      August 5, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • joydbrower

      Wow, Cool Story, your crazy remarks sure engendered a lot of response! First of all, although I "submit to God," (albeit on a very qualified level!), I am not nor ever have been a muslim – perish the thought! My God, even THINKING about living under sharia scares the hell out of me!

      Having confessed that, however, I must clarify one point that you were anxious to make about the "Christians of Europe," and the fact that the Albanian muslims behaved in a much more nobel fashion. The OTHER European muslims (in Bosnia) were a mixed lot: Some individuals behaved with noblitiy and saved friends & neighbors during the War (a favor that the handful of Jews remaining in Bosnia in the 1990s could return – albeit on a very limited basis – to their muslim neighbors when they were being attacked by both the Serbs and the Croats in the most recent Balkan Wars); but others eagerly signed up to join the Bosnian Brigade in alliance with the German Nazis – and they were instrumental in the deaths of many Jews before they even got to the camps!

      August 5, 2012 at 4:15 am |
  19. becool

    Please note that ALbania is a totally different Muslim country than other radical Muslims who hate Jews especially the Arabic Muslims! From the dawn of isalm and they hate Jews ! so give it a break.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Tufayyur Aoud

      you are so wrong and ignorant. 85% of my city in morocco is jewish and most of my best friends are jewish. Not only that
      I take care of an old Jewish lady right here in new york. I am a proud Muslim.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Mark

      You are a stinking Moron...

      August 4, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Mary

      This is a a beautiful display of Gods love reflected in the world of those who know him in whatever relligous path He has set them on. @ Mark as a catholic I recognise that you share the name of one of our great saints. By your comment I can tell you don't know him very well either.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Epinoia

      You couldn't be more wrong. The Muslims and Jews actually teamed up against the Christians once upon a time. People like you should stop spewing forth hate, and pick up a few history books and actually learn something. Hate is easy. But knowledge actually takes effort...

      August 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I will have to agree with you Epinoia and I am not even from Albania and I support all these muslims that have taken pride and courage in what they do around the world for the cause of world peace and this is a good beginning of peaceful talks about the Albanian peace

      August 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  20. disgustedvet

    In our zest to humanize the Muslims we are forgetting the hundreds of thousands of Christian Europeans including " gasp" Catholics who risked and often lost their lives to help the folks being persecuted by the Nazis.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Rekenstrana's Homunculus

      disgustedvet: "In our zest to humanize the Muslims..."

      Well, they are human...no?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • paul

      no they aren't humans.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • OpinionsToGo

      Those Christians have not been forgotten, but have been honored in many ways over the years. This story of the Albanian Muslims is a new, formerly unknown story and so is only now getting the attention that it deserves.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Texanonymouse

      Please do not detract from the sacrifices made by Albanians. There are cultural differences and besa should be celebrated as the most common of human characteristics, loving their neighbors as themselves. I hope this story spreads world-wide and can become an example for all Muslims, Jews and Christians (in reverse alpha order, not importance) for we all can learn from it. I do regret the years the story remained untold. May it bring understanding for all.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Narthex

      Paul: "no they aren't humans."

      Oh, ok. Are you positive you're human, Paul?

      August 5, 2012 at 1:51 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.