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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Manchester

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Forum co-hosts launch reception for Yad Vashem exhibition about Albanian Holocaust Rescuers

On Wednesday 10 April 2019 the Forum co-hosted a reception to launch an exibition at the Broughton Hub, 50 Rigby Street, Salford M7 4BQ.

The exhibition, entitled "Besa – A Code of Honour" uses materials from The World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem to trace the story of how the Muslim community in Albania hid Jews during the Nazi occupation of their country. It was brought to Salford by International Christian Embassy Jerusalem UK.

Albania, a small and mountainous country on the west coast of the Balkan Peninsula, was home to a population of 803,000 during the Second World War. Of those only two hundred were Jews.

After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, many European Jews found refuge in Albania. No accurate figures exist regarding their number, however, different sources estimate that 600 - 1,800 Jewish refugees entered that country from Germany, Austria, Serbia, Greece and Yugoslavia, in the hope to continue on to Palestine or other places of refuge.

Following the German occupation in 1943, the Albanian population, in an extraordinary act, refused to comply with the occupier’s orders to turn over lists of Jews residing within the country’s borders. Moreover, the various governmental agencies provided many Jewish families with fake documentation that allowed them to intermingle amongst the rest of the population.

The Albanians not only protected their Jewish citizens, but also provided sanctuary to Jewish refugees who had arrived in Albania, when it was still under Italian rule, and who now found themselves faced with the danger of deportation to concentration camps.

The remarkable assistance afforded to the Jews was grounded in "Besa," a code of honour, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country. Besa means literally “to keep the promise.” One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family.

The help afforded to Jews and non-Jews alike should be understood as a matter of national honour. The Albanians went out of their way to provide assistance. Moreover, they competed with each other for the privilege of saving Jews. These acts originated from compassion, loving-kindness and a desire to help those in need, even those of another faith or origin and were grounded in Besa.

Most nations in Europe, for one reason or another, and with a Christian background, failed to save their Jewish populations from extermination. Albania was the only European country with a Muslim majority, and they succeeded in the place where the other European nations failed.

Almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation were saved, both those of Albanian origin and refugees alike, except members of one single family. Impressively, there were more Jews in Albania at the end of the war than before.

The Forum was delighted to co-host the exhibition's launch reception, as the stories of Albania's Holocaust Rescuers need to be known by everyone.

In the group photo below, from left to right, are:

  1. Revd Christine Threlfall, St James Parish Church, Great Cheetham St East, Salford
  2. Rabbi Warren Elf, Director, Faith Network for Manchester
  3. Rabbi Cllr Arnold Saunders, Salford Council
  4. Jacky Buchsbaum, Treasurer, Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester & Region
  5. Jackie Harrison, Forum Executive Member
  6. Mohammed Amin, Forum Co-Chair
  7. Russell Bowles, Travelling Exhibitions Co-coordinator, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem UK
  8. Pat Wilson, Mayoress of Salford
  9. Cllr Ronnie Wilson, Ceremonial Mayor of Salford
  10. Cllr Heather Fletcher, Forum Co-Chair
  11. Tahara Amin, Forum Company Secretary
  12. Magda Sachs, Principal Equalities Officer, Salford Council
  13. David Lewis, Forum Treasurer
  14. Cllr Jim King, Salford Council

Group photo taken at Holocaust Rescuers exhibition launch



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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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