Shirley A. Cloyes, Balkan Affairs Adviser
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 5, 2020 – The Albanian American Civic League & the Albanian American Foundation are pleased to announce the publication of an anthology, entitled The Albanian Rescue of Jews During the Holocaust, edited by Faton Bislimi and dedicated to “the unsung Albanian heroes of the Holocaust.
The anthology documents the work of the Albanian American Civic League and Foundation from 1990 to the present in bringing to international attention the unique role that Albanians in Albania and Kosova played in saving every Jew who either lived in Albania or sought refuge there during World War II.
Born and raised in Kosova, but educated in the United States and Canada, Faton Bislimi is an Executive Board Member of the Albanian American Civic League, and one of Kosova’s most prominent young scholars, having graduated with a Master’s degree from Harvard University and is currently completing a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta. Bislimi is the recipient of many academic award and honors, including the Marshall Memorial Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
In his introduction to the anthology, Bislimi stated that, “Many of the articles included in this volume have been written by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, whose in-depth research, articulate writing, and keen analysis has advanced international awareness of the importance of the Albanian rescue.”
In her “Jewish Survival in Albania & the Ethics of ‘Besa’,” published by the American Jewish Congress in 2006, Cloyes DioGuardi emphasizes that “we might never have known the extent of Albanian efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust if it were not for the historic trip made to a closed Albania in 1990 by Congressmen Tom Lantos and Joe DioGuardi, as the first US officials to enter the country in fifty years. Seeking to ingratiate himself with Congressman Lantos, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, dictator Ramiz Alia presented never-before-seen archives containing undelivered letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings about Albanians who saved Jews during World War II. Immediately upon returning from Albania, DioGuardi sent the files to Israel, where they were authenticated by Yad Vashem.
Bislimi recognizes the critically important relationship established between the Albanian American Civic League and the Kosova-Israel Friendship Association, led by Mustafa Rezniqi, the first Kosovar Albanian to receive the Righteous Among Nations Award from Yad Vashem for his father, Arsllan Rezniqi, posthumously—and his grandson, Lekë Rezniqi, who became Chair of the Association after Mustafa’s death in 2015. The anthology includes a chapter by Lekë, entitled “Uncovering a Hidden Legacy: The Kosovar Albanian Rescue of Jews During the Holocaust.”
The anthology also includes remarks by Agim Alickaj, an Executive Board Member of the Albanian American Civic League, whose father, Arif Alickaj, worked with Arsllan Rezniqi to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. As Deputy Secretary for the Municipality of Decan, Arif issued false identity papers with Albanian names for Jewish families to ensure their safe passage from Kosova to Albania. Agim Alickaj said that his father “never asked nor expected any recognition for what he did.”
In addition to scholarly work and newspaper articles, the anthology includes Resolutions in the US Senate and House of Representatives recognizing the role of Albanians in saving Jews during the Holocaust and the event held in the Russell Senate Building on November 28, 2012, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Albania’s independence.
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