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Yad Vashem Signs Agreement with the Albanian National Archives

"This is an historic day for Holocaust Commemoration and Education. Together we shall study and educate the world on this relatively unknown chapter of the Holocaust and of the Albanian people, who came to the aide and rescue of their Jewish neighbors in an unprecedented manner over 70 years ago" Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev

31 October 2016

Another step to uncovering the story of the Holocaust was achieved today at Yad Vashem when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Albanian National Archives. General Director of the National Archives in Albania Dr. Ardit Bido remarked: "There are personal stories of Jews and Albanians stored in the Archives of Albania as well as plenty of documents of outstanding importance that depict how state authorities were involved in saving Jews by official decree." These documents and others items are invaluable in Holocaust documentation, education, commemoration and research – the pillar foundations of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

This milestone agreement is the second such Memorandum of Understanding signed between Albania and Yad Vashem. Earlier this year Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies and the Albanian Ministry of Education agreed to conduct educational seminars at Yad Vashem for Albanian teachers to study how to educate future generations about the Holocaust. This agreement has already brought the first seminar of Albanian educators to Yad Vashem, currently participating in a seminar in the International School at Yad Vashem.

"The relationship between Albania and the Holocaust is a unique one," Shalev asserts. "Albania, a mostly Muslim country, is the only European state whose Jewish population was higher at the end of the Holocaust than prior to it. This was thanks to the initiative of the Albanian people who, in accordance with their core values and pan-Albanian culture, valued human life and thus came to aide, shelter and rescue many Jewish refugees fleeing from the German Nazis and their collaborators." These heroic stories were highlighted first in a Yad Vashem showcase exhibition that was displayed in the United Nations in January 2008 and then featured as a Yad Vashem Online Exhibition entitled "BESA: A Code of Honor – Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust." The Albanian word meaning "Honor," was the code word used by escaping Jews requesting help and protection.

Director of the Yad Vashem Archives Division Dr. Haim Gertner was present at the agreement ceremony along with the Albanian Ambassador to Israel H.E. Dr. Bardhyl Canaj and Ambassador (ret.) Zvi Rav-Ner. "Yad Vashem's Archives is the world's largest repository of Holocaust-related documents and artifacts," said Dr. Gertner. "We will be conducting an overall mapping of all the documents pertaining to the Jewish community from the period of the Holocaust, and will restore, catalogue and disseminate the information to use in teaching and commemorating the Holocaust."

For more information about Yad Vashem's Archives or to learn more about the story of the Holocaust in Albania, please contact Simmy Allen in the Yad Vashem Communications Division.

Contact: Simmy Allen / Head, International Media Section / Communications Division / Yad Vashem / +972 2 644 3410/2 simmy.allen@yadvashem.org.il / www.yadvashem.org