The Honorary Consul of Albania to Israel, Raphael Faust: My love for Albanian is eternal!

The invitation I received from them on that occasion to visit Albania was the beginning of a special relationship I developed with Albania and the Albanian people, a relationship which continues to this very day.


By Raphael Faust, The Honorary Consul of Albania to Israel

I have to admit that my initial interest in Albania was driven by pure curiosity.

This curiosity is what had motivated me to approach, uninvited, Albania’s minister of foreign affairs and his chief of cabinet, while they were eating breakfast at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. This was during a very short visit of theirs to Israel in the summer of 1991, the purpose of which had been to establish de facto relations with Israel.

The invitation I received from them on that occasion to visit Albania was the beginning of a special relationship I developed with Albania and the Albanian people, a relationship which continues to this very day.

Indeed, once I came to Albania and learned more about its history, the real motivator for my activities on behalf of Albania in Israel was the then-unheard of story of the unique salvation of Jews in Albania – in fact, all the Jews of Albania as well as other Jews who fled to the country to find shelter- during the Holocaust.

Accordingly, what I consider the peak of my activities’ the honorary consul of Albania is Israel is the International Scholarly Conference on “Albania, the Albanians and the Holocaust” which I initiated, promoted and helped organize, in order to publicize Albania’s unique historical record during the Holocaust.

It took me almost three years to put the conference together. It was held at the Tirana International Hotel on May 20th, 2008, and hosted by the University of Tirana (Prof. Valentina Duka), in cooperation with the Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel (Prof. Dan Michman) and Yad Vashem, the International School of Holocaust Studies, Jerusalem. I believe this conference played a crucial part in revealing the unknown story of the survival of the Albanian Jewry, and has established it as an undisputed part of Albanian history.

The conference’s program is detailed below.

In the opening session of the conference, greetings were delivered by:

The Prime Minister of Albania

The Rector of the University of Tirana

Ms. Amira Arnon, Ambassador of the State of Israel to Albania

Mr. Tonin Gjuraj, Ambassador of Albania in Israel

Mr. John L. Withers, Ambassador of the United States in Albania

Mr. Raphael Faust, Honorary Consul of Albania in Israel (the undersigned)

Prof. Dr. Petrit Zorba, Chair, Albania-Israel Friendship Association

Ambassador Mordechai Arbell, World Jewish Congress

 

The following lectures were delivered at the conference by scholars from Albania, Israel, Italy, Germany and the United States:

Prof. Valentina Duka (University of Tirana, Tirana, Albania):  Albanian Historiography on the Holocaust

Prof. Bernd Fischer (Indiana University, Fort Wayne, USA): The Second World War in Albania, an Overview of Western Sources

Prof. Dan Michman (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan; and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem,  Israel): Historiography on the Holocaust in its Seventh Decade and its Relevance for the Albanian Case

Prof. Ferit Duka (Vice-Director, Institute of History, Tirana): Historical Background of the Albanian Jews

Prof. Beqir Meta (Director, Albanian National Museum, Tirana, Albania): Albania and the Albanians – Characteristics of and Major Developments in Albanian History in the First Half of the 20th Century

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nevila Nika (Director General, Albanian State Archives, Tirana, Albania): Records of Albanian Archives on the Jews of Albania

Prof. Dr. Petrika Thengjilli (University of Tirana, Albania): Place Names in Central Albania as a Testimony to the Jewish Presence.

Prof. Dr. Fatmira Rama (University of Tirana, Albania): King Zog’s Policy Towards the Jews in Albania

Assoc. Prof. Iliriana Çaushi (Sulo) (University of Tirana, Albania): Albanian Jews during the Communist Rule

Dr. Tommaso dell’Era (Tuscia University of Viterbo, Italy): Italian Policies Towards the Jews in Albania in the Context of the Occupation and the New European Fascist Order

Dr. Eva Hyskaj (University of Tirana, Albania): Nazi Germany and its Goals in South-Eastern Europe

Dr. Martin Cüppers (Forschungsstelle Ludwigsburg/Universität Stuttgart): Albanians for Himmler’s “Political Soldiers”? Recruitment and Tasks of the 21st SS Division “Skanderbeg”, 1944

Prof. Dr. Shaban Sinani (Institute of Linguistics and Literature, Tirana, Albania):  21st SS Division “Skanderbeg” and the Jews During World War II According to Albanian Archival Records

Prof. Bernd Fischer (Indiana University, Fort Wayne, USA): Collaboration and Resistance in Albania during World War II

Mr. Apostol Kotani (Tirana, Albania): Rescue of Jews in Albania: The Social, Political and Geographical Contexts

Mr. Daniel Perez (PhD-student, Stanford University, USA): From Prishtina to Bergen-Belsen: Revisiting the Case of the Deportation of the Jews in 1944 in the Light of Albanian Sources

Prof. Dan Michman (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan; and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem,  Israel): “Righteous Among the Nations”: The Evolution of an Unprecedented Commemorative Category

Dr. Iaël Nidam-Orvieto (The Hebrew University, and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel) and Mrs. Irena Steinfeldt (Yad Vashem): The Rescue of Jews in Albania Through the Perspective of the Yad Vashem Files of the Righteous Among the Nations

Ma. Monika Stafa (Journalist, Top-Channel TV, Tirana, Albania): The World War II Albanian Governments and The Holocaust.

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