26 January 2009
BESA: A Code of Honor - Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, Photographer: Norman Gershman, will open at the Ramle Museum, 112 Herzl St., Ramle, with the support of the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport, tomorrow, January 27, 2009, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Yad Vashem Exhibition, now in Arabic and Hebrew, will open at 10:30, in the presence of Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavie, Deputy Director of the Museums Division at Yad Vashem Yehudit Shendar, and Arab-Israeli high school students from Ramle. For three months following the opening, groups of Arab and Jewish students from the city will visit the exhibition in special educational programs run by Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies, in cooperation with Ramle Municipality, with the support of the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport.
“It is our hope that this important exhibition will further understanding of the Holocaust, offering a glimpse into the difficult choices that people faced,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “We are committed to providing accurate and comprehensive information about the Holocaust to as wide an audience as possible. Over the past year, we have launched a website and YouTube channel in Arabic, providing those who wish to know, with the tools and information they need to combat ignorance and denial.
About the Exhibition:
For four years, American photographer Norman Gershman photographed Muslim Righteous Among the Nations and their families in Albania. The Yad Vashem Exhibition BESA: A Code of Honor - Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, features 17 of these portraits, accompanied by explanatory texts.
More than 22,000 individuals have thus far been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, 63 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 into Albania. When the Germans occupied Albania in 1943, the local population refused to comply with the 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. 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.
An English and Hebrew version of the exhibition was displayed at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem (2008) as well as at UN headquarters in New York (January 2008).