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Yad Vashem Exhibition to Open in House of Commons

BESA: A Code of Honor - Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, Photographer: Norman Gershman

13 January 2011

On Monday, January 17, 2011, the Yad Vashem Exhibition Besa: A Code of Honor will open in the House of Commons, London.

BESA: A Code of Honor - Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, Photographer: Norman Gershman, will be displayed in the Upper Waiting Hall of the House of Commons in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27. BESA: A Code of Honor, are photographs by American photographer Norman Gershman, of Albanians recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations and their families, accompanied by their personal stories. The opening will take place at 11:30 on January 17, 2011, hosted by Richard Harrington, MP. Its display in the House of Commons was facilitated by the British Friends of Yad Vashem and the Exploring Islam Foundation.

Following its display in Parliament, the exhibition will be moved to the London JCC where it will be open to the public between January 24 - 29, after which it will be put on display at the National Arboretum for two months.

Over 23,000 individuals have thus far been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations; 69 of them from Albania. Prior to World War II, some 200 Jews lived in Albania. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, hundreds of Jews crossed the border from Yugoslavia, Germany, Greece, Austria and Serbia. When the Germans occupied Albania in 1943, the Albanian population refused to comply with Nazis’ orders to turn over lists of Jews residing in Albania. The remarkable assistance afforded to the Jews was grounded in Besa, a code of honor. 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. Almost all the Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation, those of Albanian origin and refugees alike, were saved. Impressively, there were more Jews in Albania at the end of the war than beforehand.

“Why did my father save a stranger at the risk of his life and the entire village? My father was a devout Muslim. He believed that to save one life is to enter paradise.” -- Enver Alia Sheqer, son of Righteous Among the Nations Ali Sheqer Pashkaj, featured in the BESA exhibition.

The Exhibition has previously been displayed at Yad Vashem, at UN headquarters in New York, at the European Parliament in Strassbourg, and in other locations in Israel.