Kosovo Albanians and Jews during the Second World War

2023-01-30 18:12:41Histori SHKRUAR NGA PROF. ASOC. DR. MARENGLEN KASMI
Hebrew street in Berat - Illustrative photo

The explanation of the phenomenon of the rescue of the Jews in Albania during the LIIB should not be simplified only by the oath and the Albanian code of honor, as it is usually read, but is much more complex and a more in-depth analysis of the historical circumstances, of the government policies towards the Jews, the help you gave them as well as the reasons for it.

Referring to the state political organization of Albania during the LIIB, when both under the Italian and German occupation, when Kosovo was at least propagandistically led by Tirana and was known under the name "tokat e lirueme" during the Italian occupation and "new Albania" during the German occupation, we must accept in principle that even the Albanians of Kosovo treated the Jews the same. Logically, there is only one Albanian ethnotype, thus also one attitude.

Berndt J. Fischer, in his book "Albania during the war" has defended the opinion that the Jews in Kosovo were more endangered than those in the old Albania. According to him, if one hundred percent of the Jews survived in state-owned Albania, in Kosovo there was a loss of nearly 60 percent. Fischer hypothesizes that perhaps the Skanderbeg Division may have collaborated with Nazi SS forces. Fischer's problem is that he reaches this conclusion without consulting the Albanian archives. There are also a number of researchers, mainly of Slavic origin, who go more or less in this direction and reach such conclusions.


During the years 1939-1941, several hundred Jews of Serbia moved to Kosovo, where the controlling authority was the fascist army. As Sir Martin Gilbert wrote, in April 1941, "the Italian invaders of Albania took advantage of the German occupation of Yugoslavia by taking control of Kosovo, inhabited mainly by Albanians; at the same time, 400 Jews had passed there from the former Yugoslavian countries when the German troops occupied Yugoslavia".

The situation became difficult for the Jews settled in Kosovo, when in 1942 the Germans ordered their arrest. This is the moment when the Albanian government and local structures in Kosovo begin to take measures for the removal of Jews from Kosovo to Albania. These measures are expressed in dozens of official communications between Tirana and local structures in Kosovo when the Albanian government took this decision.

According to the lists kept in the state archives, there are 94 heads of households together with their families and 87 Jewish individuals who came from Kosovo and settled in Berat. The number of Jews who came in 1941-1942 from Kosovo to internal Albania, according to Albanian archives, was over 500 people. That the situation of the Jews in Kosovo was very serious is proven by the fact that Tirana ordered that the preparation and departure of the Jews to Albania be organized as soon as possible, even if forced.

By another telegraphic order [no. 11/25, dated April 1, 1942] The Ministry of Internal Affairs asked the prefecture of Prizren to gather all the Jews under its authority and send them to a concentration field for all of Kosovo, from where, a few days later , together with 69 Jews who were arrested in the prison of Pristina, were sent to Albania to the concentration centers: Kavajë, Burrel, Krujë and Shijak. During 1942 and the beginning of 1943, other groups of Jews from Prizren, Prishtina, Ferizaj and other places were drawn to the old Albanian hinterland.

As above, it is entirely possible that this contingent of Jews who came from Kosovo could be the 500 Jews that researchers Sarfatti and Fischer consider as lost.

All these actions were not done to save the Jews of Kosovo from the Albanians there, nor the Jews who came from other countries; not to deport them to Albania, but to remove them from the danger of Nazi action, which was evident especially since 1942, when the Germans gave orders for the arrest of Jews in Kosovo as well.

From the German documents consulted, there is no German plan for a general mobilization of Kosovo Albanians. Likewise, Noel Malcolm's conclusion, that the idea of ??recruiting the SS division "Skanderbeg" came from the discussions held by the German authorities and Bedri Pejanit, is wrong.

The idea of ??setting up Albanian formations under the SS-Army began as early as September 1943. As in other occupied countries, the idea of ??creating a local military force was raised in the German leadership immediately after the German occupation of Albania, but was temporarily interrupted as a result of Neubacher's propaganda and insistence on apparently preserving Albanian independence. Another reason for the non-realization of this plan was the many contradictions that were caused as a result of the "clash of competences" between the German military authorities in Albania, specifically the German general for Albania and Himmler's representative in Albania, the Brigadenführer - SS JosefFitzthum.

At the beginning of 1944, after it was clearly seen that the Albanian government failed to raise a government military force, troops that for the Germans were now very necessary in the war against the partisans, Hitler approved the creation of the division - SS "Skanderbeg". The reason for the registration of Albanians in this division is explained by the fact that the Germans, although invaders, ensured that Serbia was kept away from Kosovo, even temporarily, and perhaps after the withdrawal of the Germans, it would be the English who would intervene in Albania. Despite the low military efficiency that characterized this division, which the commander of this division, Brigadenführer-iSchmidthuber, claims, the division undertook two actions, arresting 281 Jews and 210 communists. In fact, the time of performing these actions,

For the first time the Skanderbeg Division is mentioned as a military power that deported the Jews of Serbia concentrated in Pristina in the memoirs of H. Neubacher and later in the testimonies of two Serbian scholars, published in the last two decades. In these memoirs it is said that this Division took to Bergen-Belsen approximately 500 Jews, who are considered disappeared [actually, it is not about any escort to this infamous camp, but an escort to Belgrade prison]. This figure was entered without being verified in the yearbook, in the encyclopedia, in the publications, so much so that now it is almost officially said that the attitude of the people of Kosovo towards the Jews has been completely different from that of the Albanian people of the Albanian state.

As we pointed out above, regarding the role of this division in the arrest of Jews as well as the number of Jews arrested by this division, there are obvious inconsistencies. All sorts of figures have been mentioned. Most scholars refer to a figure contained in a report of this division dated July 13, 1944, in which it is stated that this division arrested 510 Jews, communists, partisan supporters and politically suspicious persons. If we compare the lists prepared in August 1944 for the transport of those arrested from this division, we see that among those arrested there are 31 Jews and 2 women married to a Jewish man, that is, 32 people and never hundreds of them. The rest are Albanians arrested as communists, partisans, opponents of Nazism; also Montenegrin anti-fascists and a few Serbs.

All the arrest lists that we know of, four in number, were drawn up in August 1944, on the 5th, 9th and 18th of August. One of them, an appendix, has no date. In all likelihood, it must have been ordered on August 18.

The SS Skanderbeg Division was ordered to escort the internees, of all four lists and the annex, on August 18, 1944. Of all the arrested persons, only those of List II [249 people] were to be transferred to Germany for work. The rest were to be held in the divisional jail. The order did not include deportation for them. All the lists together contain 801 names. As we see in the fourth transport list that we are bringing as a facsimile below, only communists and partisans are mentioned in its title. So, not the Jews. Of course, there are also Jews in these lists of those arrested.

Kosovo Albanians and Jews during the Second World War

These are the only known listings so far. The lists were drawn up by the command of the SS Skanderbeg Division. A copy of them is kept in the fund of the General Directorate of Police, which was notified of the operation within the framework of an agreement made between the Albanian government and the German invaders.

Finally, it is worth noting that the creation of the SS "Skanderbeg" division was not a special case or a distinguishing feature of the occupation, political and military relations between Germany and Albania. This is because during the period of the Second World War, Germany recruited many soldiers or other units and units from foreign countries under the SS-Army in the entire space of its occupation and not only in the Balkans but in almost all the countries it conquered. In this context, such forces were also recruited in the Balkans, as in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria, etc. So this SS-division is not an Albanian phenomenon! Likewise, only the recruits were Albanians, who left en masse right from its beginnings. The chain of command was German officers and also it was run from Berlin and not from Tirana. So,

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