The Albanian Role in the Holocaust

In the Associated Press story “Albanian family honored for helping Jews”, Marcus Franklin rehashed and regurgitated the Albanian propaganda claim that Albanians “rescued” Jews during the Holocaust and played no role in the Holocaust. This is a total falsification, distortion, and manipulation of the Albanian role in the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Chronicle, researched by prominent Holocaust historians and scholars, documents that 10 to 12 Jews from Albania proper were sent to the Nazi death camp at Bergen-Belsen. This research disproves the Albanian propaganda claim that 100% of Albanian Jews were “rescued” during the Holocaust. Moreover, Harvey Sarner reported that the Ardel family, an Albanian Jewish family, was killed by the Nazis in Albania proper, although he qualified this by saying they were killed because they were partisans, not because they were Jews.

Albanian Nazi Waffen SS Unterscharfuehrer from the Albanian 21st Nazi SS Division Skanderbeg. The Albanian Nazi SS troops are wearing the SS-issued gray Albanian skullcaps or Albanerfez. (Source: Siegrunen, Albanian SS Volunteers, 55, January 1994. ISSN 0733-0367.)

Two factors explain why Albanian Jews were “rescued” in Albania proper. First, the Italian occupation authorities did not support the Final Solution in Albania and did not implement it. Albanian Jews were allowed to disperse within the population and to lose their Jewish identity. Second, there were only 33 known Jewish families in Albania proper before the war. The Wannsee Conference listed only 200 Jews in Albania. Italian non-enforcement of the Final Solution and the minuscule Jewish population, dispersed in the rural areas, explains why so few Jews were sent to the death camps.

But the Albanian government  did make a major effort to exterminate all the Jews of Albania proper.

In a July, 1944 report by US intelligence, the OSS, on Albania entitled “Political and Internal Conditions”, it was reported that “Xhafer Deva, Rexhep Mitrovic[a] and Midhat Frasheri are with the Germans. … Anti-semitic measures are being adopted now. A captured SS document “revealed that Deva had been responsible for the deportation of ‘Jews, Communists and partisans’ to extermination camps as well as for punitive raids by the SS Skanderbeg Division. The small mountain territory had few Jews, so relatively few were captured and killed.” This proves that the Albanian government instituted anti-Semitic measures and did deport Albanian Jews to the death camps.

Christopher Simpson, in Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War, noted that relatively few Jews were captured and killed but “not for lack of trying by the Balli Kombetar organization and the Albanian SS” which had orchestrated “a series of anti-semitic purges that rounded up about 800 people, the majority of whom were deported and murdered.” There was no “lack of trying” by the Albanian government. Anna Kohen recites only selective instances when Albanian Jews escaped capture and deportation. The Albanian government, however, did try to round up and deport and to kill every single Albanian Jew.

The Albanian government and Albanian authorities took an active part in the extermination of Albanian Jews: “In June, 1943…the Albanian police chief suggested the jailing of certain Jews:

‘According to our investigation the Jews listed below are dangerous because they are propaganderizing [sic] against the Axis (Rome-Berlin) and they want to organize and hold meetings. We think these people should be taken away from here as soon as possible to one of the concentration fields, because their staying here could be dangerous to the regime.’”

Sarner conceded that the Albanian government and the Albanian people did play a major role in the Holocaust and Final Solution: “In April, 1944, the Germans shipped 400 Jews from the annexed territories to Bergen-Belsen; 100 survived the war.”

The way the Albanian propagandists get around this problem is by arguing that Kosovo-Metohija and Western Macedonia were not a part of a Greater Albania. This is absolute nonsense and rubbish. From 1941 to 1944, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini created a Greater Albania that was made up of Kosovo and Western Macedonia. Kosovo was regarded as the “New Albania” and “the annexed territories”, but Kosovo was part of Hitler’s Greater Albania nonetheless. This Albanian self-delusion is a rhetorical and nonsensical propaganda trick. Yes, Albanian Nazis did round up and murder hundreds of Kosovo Jews who were gassed at Bergen-Belsen. Yes, Kosovo was part of a Greater or Ethnic or Natural Albania. But, no, Albanians “rescued” 100% of the Jews in Albania. This is mindless and duplicitous. Many of the key political leaders who ran Albania proper were Kosovo Albanian Muslims. Both Kosovo and Albania proper were under the control and authority of the same people. This is a meaningless and specious argument. It is misleading and falsifies the actual history of Albania during the Holocaust.

A company of the Albanian Nazi SS Division Skanderbeg awaiting orders in the Kosovo-Metohija city of Pec, 1944. The Albanian Nazi SS troops, wearing the SS-issued gray Albanian skullcaps, are assembled under a large Albanian flag between two Nazi swastika banners.

The 21st Albanian Nazi SS Division Skanderbeg played a key role in the Holocaust. This Nazi SS Division was made up of Albanians from Albania proper and Kosovo. The first operation of Skanderbeg in Kosovo-Metohija was the raid on Kosovo Jews in Pristina on May 14,1944. The Albanian SS troops raided apartments and homes belonging to Kosovo Jews and looted their possessions, and rounded them up for deportation to the death camps. Kosovo Jews were then placed in makeshift jails. The 21st SS Division Skanderbeg apprehended 281 Kosovo Jews, which included men, women, and children. From May to June 1944, the Nazi SS Division Skanderbeg apprehended a total of 519 Kosovo Jews and Serbs.

During the initial German occupation of Pristina in 1941 before it was turned over to Italian administration, the property of Kosovo Jews was seized and they were conscripted for forced labor. In Kosovska Mitrovica, Jewish shops and stores were closed down and Kosovo Jews were ordered to wear a yellow band to identify themselves as Jews.

Albanians collaborated with the Nazis in exterminating the Jews. The seizure of Jewish property was organized and conducted by the Gestapo and members of the Albanian Committee. On May 20, 1941, Dzafer Deva, the leader of the Mitrovica district, ordered the seizure of Jewish property. Jewish businesses had been put under the supervision of members of the Albanian Committee.

The seizure of Jewish businesses and property was conducted by Albanians: Mamut Perijuc, Ramiz Mulic and Osman Ibrahimovic, who worked in conjuction with the German Gestapo. Ibrahimovic was the head of the commission overseeing Jewish property. This Albanian leader ordered the demolition of the Jewish synagogue and the destruction of papers and documents in the Jewish archive. In Pristina, the seizure of Jewish property and anti-Jewish measures were undertaken by the Kosovar Albanian regime placed in control and by members of the Albanian Kosovo Committee, Maljus Kosova, president of the Committee, Dzemal beg Ismail Kanli, head of the police, Rasid Memedali, and Rifat Sukri Ramadan. Albanians were collaborating with the Germans in expropriating the property of Jews.

Yugoslav Jewish survivors put the responsibility on the Kosovar Albanian Committee for inciting the first and second internments of Kosovo Jews. In the Jewish historical archives of Yugoslavia, the role of the 21st SS Division in the Holocaust and in the genocide of Kosovo Jews and Serbs is described as follows: ”From May 25 to July 2, 1944 the Division ‘Skanderbeg’ apprehended 510 Jews, Serbs… They were put in jails, while 249 were sent as forced laborers to the Reich.”

The Albanian Nazi SS Skanderbeg Division played a hitherto unacknowledged role in the Holocaust. It was made up of ethnic Albanians from Albanian proper and from Kosovo, the New Albania. Why doesn’t Sarner and Anna Kohen mention the Skanderbeg SS Division? It they revealed its existence, their propaganda argument would collapse and their claims would be laughable. So what do they do? They meticulously cover up and censor any mention of the Albanian Nazi SS Division Skanderbeg. And for good reason as it turns out. In Kosovo: A Short History, even noted Albanian propagandist, shill, and apologist Noel Malcolm conceded that in the Djakovica region of Kosovo-Metohija, the Albanian Nazi SS Skanderbeg Division engaged in ”the round-up and deportation of 281 Jews” to the concentration-extermination camps in May 1944. According to Malcolm, ”they took part in the most shameful episode in Kosovo’s wartime history.” But these Nazis who murdered Jews were ethnic Albanians from Albania proper and from Kosovo.Albanians didn’t “rescue” 100% of the Jews in Albania. Albanians murdered 7% of the Jews in Albania proper and 40% of the Jews in New Albania, or Kosovo.

The Albanian role in the Holocaust does not end here. In fact, Albanians made up two Nazi SS Divisions, Skanderbeg and Handzar, the 13th Nazi SS Division formed in Bosnia and made up of Bosnian Muslim and Albanian Muslim Nazi SS troops.

The role of Albania and of Albanians in the Holocaust has been carefully falsified, manipulated, and covered-up.