For many reasons, Albania is not one of the first countries Israel would expect to line up to come and visit her. The history of this small Balkan country is not exactly so warm towards the Jewish people. But, it still has some interesting aspects from World War II.
Albania during World War II
Most of the Jews from Albania survived the war. However, 500 Jews who lived in Albanian-dominated Kosovo went through a horrible stage during the Nazi occupation. About 40 percent were killed. When Italy surrendered in September 1943, German forces occupied Albania, Kosovo and other territories that had been annexed to the country. In 1944, the Nazis formed an Albanian Waffen-SS division and arrested 281 Jews from Kosovo. They then deported them to the hellish Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where many were killed.
End of World War II
Albania was perhaps the only country that ended the war with more Jews than it started. That is a very sad fact. The population of Jews swelled to more than ten times greater than it started with. There were around 1,800 individuals. Most of these refugees emigrated to Israel. The rest ended up on the wrong side of the iron curtain. A few hundred hundred stayed on till the fall of communism in the early 90’s. 69 Albanians have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
Albania and Israel – Positive Future?
Will this small mysterious country for so many decades, now build up a good relationship with Israel? They do have many incentives. Of course, economic incentives are the main reason. But, Albania would also like to be part of the EU. So, one path to become more connected to the EU is via Israel.
Will they recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? Not quite, but they are happy to take a step in the right direction. Interesting.