Washington DC, PM Rama: Albanians handed over gold, but not Jews

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama attended on Sunday the AIPAC Policy Conference, the largest annual gathering of America’s pro-Israel community in Washington DC. Speaking to the conference of 18 thousand participants, PM Rama emphasized that saving the Jews during the World War Two is a brilliant page in our history, but not the only one related to the relations between the Jews and the Albanians.

During an interview of his, the head of government highlighted the fact that during the Second World War, the Albanians without any distinction of religion gave shelter to the Jews. And he presented an interesting piece of history.

Thus, a leading NAZI, Hermann Neubacher summoned in 1943 representatives from our four religious communities and demanded the list of Jews and the list gold pieces they had, but they handed over the gold, but not the Jews.

Interview of PM Rama:

Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister! Two years ago you visited Israel on an official visit and met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders. There were signed agreements in the field of security or investments in private sectors. Will you give us a summary of these agreements of partnership and what can be done more to strengthen the relations of your country with Israel?

PM Rama: Your predecessors came to Albania looking for shelter even three other timers before, in the first century, in the fifteenth century and in the seventeenth century and they always found shelter in Albania. Thus, our relation with the state of Israel is rather special and great and we would certainly like to see it promoted more.

For the first time this year, there will be established a direct flight from Israel to Albania in summer time. Thus, I would like that the second land of the Jews, as described in the Leo Elton’s Report of 1035, turns to be your second home for spending the vacations. It means you are very welcome to Albania.

Mr. Prime Minister! Your country is located in an important region for Israel, with friendly countries to Israel like Montenegro and Greece. How can Albania lead the Balkan effort for deepening relations with Israel and supporting Israel in fields that have to do with security and vote at the UNO?

PM Rama: First of all, it can happen through telling our history and protecting our common values. I am committed to building an Albanian-Israeli centre of culture in the heart of the capital Tirana. We have engaged Daniel Libeskind with the design, rather distinguished for the Jewish Museum in Berlin. We want to show in this centre our history for our children and neighbours. I would like to see a twin-centre in Jerusalem where people of different religions can learn the extraordinary story of Albanians seeing the human in the Jews. Being a country of Muslims and Christians, Albanians are ranked in the forefront of struggle against violent extremism and terrorism. There is also a centre against violent extremism in Tirana and PM Netanyahu has promised of being the main partner for transformation of this centre into a point of reference in the region. Thus, I strongly believe that Albania sets an example of co-existence between the Muslims and the Christians, and the country that protects the same values like Israel.

Mr. Prime Minister! Albania is proud of its Jewish treatment during the World War Two. Although under occupation, Albania defended its Jewish community, but also offered shelter to Jews coming to Albania. There is evidence of Albania refusing to hand over the members of the Israeli community. What is in the core of this stand?

PM Rama: Albania was the first country in Europe, in 1932, when anti-Semitism was widespread, that recognized the right of the Jewish community to get organized and legalize Shabbat. The story is absolutely extraordinary because the Jews were rescued not only by the Muslim families, but even the Catholic clergy. The story goes that a great Christian clergyman baptized many Jews to change their identity and protect them from the NAZI. Another story is that of the leading NAZI Hermann Neubacher who summoned in 1943 representatives from our four religious communities and demanded the list of Jews and the list of gold they had, but they gave the list of gold, but not that of the Jews. This is quite extraordinary, but also a great lecture and we must do the utmost that this heritage is preserved for the coming generations and serves as an inspiration for the future.

What other challenges does Albania face being a country on the shores of the Adriatic Sea?

PM Rama: Following Montenegro joining the NATO, the Adriatic Sea is already the NATO’s border. It means security, but we must fight against common threats. Not only terrorism and violent extremism, but even the sources that finance this kind of activity, smuggling, drugs trafficking and so on.

I would like to thank the hosts for the invitation appreciating it an act of estimation for my country and an opportunity to show our old and profound friendship.

I also expect to see you in Albania, a country where there is a lot to learn and a unique space of beauty and hospitality combined together.


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