The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. –Winston Churchill/
Members of VATRA DC Chapter joined host Dr. Ina Farka on Tuesday evening at Gjergj Dollani’s Albanian-owned Café Chocolate in honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day with Stories of Jewish Rescue in Albania. A Holocaust survivor’s relative was in attendance.
Dr. Farka shared an emotional account beginning with her first trip to the Holocaust Museum whereupon locating the Albanian names of the righteous she noticed a familiar one. She assumed it was a mere coincidence or perhaps a common local moniker, so she phoned her mother. Ms. Farka’s mother certified that the man on the wall was in fact her uncle. Dr. Farka was taken aback because she had known her mother’s uncle her whole life but he never made mention of the Jews he rescued. Dr. Farka recalled the dirt floor in her great-uncle’s basement where she later learned the Jews were hidden. To the question why was it kept secret, Dr. Farka’s mother simply said “humility” and that he considered it his duty to help the Jews, also the communists were no less of a threat to the righteous Albanians than the fascists.
Dr. Gjon Buçaj, longstanding national figure and former VATRA President, told one of many personal stories he had heard directly from father figure Kolë Bibë Mirakaj, Albania’s Minister of Interior during the Italian occupation. Jewish leader Leo Thür accompanied a distraught jeweler from Vlora, Mr. Levi, to Tirana hoping that Mr. Mirakaj would help them secure the release of the merchant’s younger brother who had been imprisoned and awaiting execution for financially supporting the partisans—the Levis were under communist pressure with one of their stores already burned to the ground. When Mr. Mirakaj requested the Italian Military Intelligence Service release the Levi bother, the commanding officer—who was privately willing to accommodate the Levis for a number of gold pieces but without guarantees—said the Jew would be “easily” executed the next morning. Mr. Mirakaj boldly declared that, “he may be executed tomorrow morning, but I will appear before Il Duce (Mussolini) myself on the next flight to explain that you sought gold for life.” At that, the younger Levi brother was set free. The merchant later returned to thank the Interior Minister. As in Ms. Farka’s story, Mr. Mirakaj responded that it was his moral duty to protect the Jews, nothing exceptional. On his way out of the minister’s office, the merchant had purposely left behind a briefcase with a large sum of money in it. Mr. Mirakaj called him back to the office and ordered him to take the briefcase. With tears down the merchant’s face, he explained the he knew no other way to repay him for saving his brother’s life. Mr. Mirakaj, forgiving the offense, told the merchant that all Albanians are obligated to protect every Jew with their lives if necessary—this is the highest meaning of BESA.
Public records found in Albania’s Archives reveal an official memorandum signed by Kolë Bibë Mirakaj in August 1943, authorizing passports for all Jews and safe passage to allied territories in southern Italy.
It is a celebrated fact among the Jewish people that every Jew in Albania was rescued from the Holocaust. For perspective: by 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed.
The Pan Albanian Federation of America – VATRA (The Hearth)
Washington DC Chapter
DATE: January 30, 2018