“We remember together with the nation of Israel!”
On January 27, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005 commemorates Holocaust’s victims. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945.
The word ‘holocaust ‘ comes from the Ancient Greek language and it means sacrifice. Before World War II, the term used to describe the death of a large group of people. Since 1945 it has become synonymous with the systematic persecution of European Jews and the murder of 6 million of them during World War II, by the Nazis and their allies, from 1933 to 1945. The Jews refer to this unprecedented event with the word ‘Shoah’ which means catastrophe.
Albanians’ role against Jews’ persecution during World War II is well-known throughout the world. Though the history of Albanians and Jews begins thousands of years ago, through different waves of their settlement in our land.
During an interview with the history teacher, Arben Myrto, principal of “10th of July” school, in Lushnja, we learn that in fact the first arrival of the Jews in Albania (Illyria) is evidenced during the first century BC, when the Jews were transported as slaves to Rome. Other sources mention that Jews settled in Illyrian lands along with the Hellenic colonies in Saranda and Orikum. It is claimed that their number at that time amounted to 3000 inhabitants.
A significant wave of Jews coming to our country is Expulsion of Jews from Spain that began in 1492. They settled in different areas, but mostly in Berat, Elbasan, Vlora, Durrës and Korça where they easily integrated into economic and political life, and into marriages and friendships with locals. Jews in Albania were distinguished for their trade activities with Ragusa, Sicily and Thessaloniki. Also, they had the right of religious belief and set up synagogues whose traces go back to the XIX century. However, they moved from our territories in search of better living conditions, helped by their crafting skills, trading abilities and progress in other fields such as science, art, etc. Regarding their education, Jews did not receive more than primary education in Albania, in religious schools and later in secular ones.
The number of Jews coming from other Balkan countries and Europe during World War II was about 2000 people, while in Albania there were about 200 Jewish residents. Albanians did not hand over Jews, but they provided shelter and protection to them. They hid Jews in cellars, cult objects, forests and some “disguised” them as seriously ill. Many Jews joined Albanian military formations against the Nazis. They lived in Albania until the foundation Israeli’s state after World War II.
Holocaust Remembrance importance remains the same, even more than 7 decades later. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, teachers and school principals need to have a well-thought approach. Studying the Holocaust helps clarifying concepts such as democracy, human rights, dictatorship, propaganda, resistance, genocide, xenophobia, racism, etc., by promoting awareness and reflection. Learning about the Holocaust in school develops students’ critical thinking about this event and reduces the risk of unreliable sources of information.
The history teacher emphasizes that it is important to consider the age of the students when deciding terms and materials to be used. For younger students the focus might be on rescue cases and those who provided help and protection. While older students they can be taught more challenging facts.
Schools can organize activities such as competitions for projects, essays and albums, meetings with professors in the field, testimonies from families who may have helped or have known Jews. Schools have the opportunity to commemorate values of tolerance, friendship and help shown by the Albanian people to Jews.
“School principals can provide more incentives to commemorate the Holocaust. Recognition of Albanians contribution to protect and save Jews, contribution of Israel in the development of Albania, and the diplomatic and friendly relations between both countries serves the purpose of growing up and educating generations who believe in freedom and human rights.”- mentioned Arben Myrto.
The Centre for School Leadership has a very close and strong partnership with several centres in Israel focused on Educational Leadership, such as the Avney Rosha Institute. Also, the Centre for School Leadership’ staff has studied at one of the most prestigious universities in Israel, such as the University of Haifa.
Therefore, CSL shows a great concern and care for the Nation of Israel and especially for Mrs. Yehudit Shalvi and the staff of the centre she leads; Mr. Yakkov Gutterman; Lecturers and trainers from the Oranim College of Education and University of Haifa.
We never forget, we remember and we must work so that this event does not happen again!
“But above all and at the core of that warm conversation, and also of the closeness that the President showed to the first ambassador of Albania in Israel, was the memory and respect that he showed to the Albanian people, for the help and solidarity that they have shown to the Jews living in Albania, as the only case in the world where no Jew was handed over to the Nazis.” Dashnor Dervishi, Former Ambassador of Albania in Israel, interviewed for Izraeli Sot.
Alesia Makaj MSc (c), Reaserch and Development Intern, Centre for School Leadership
Arben Myrto, Teacher of History, School Principal, “10th of July” School, Lushnje
Sonila Dubare MA, MSPH, Research and Development Manager, Centre for School Leadership