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Book Review: Rescue in Albania, by Harvey Sarner, Brunswick Press, 1997, 106 pages.
Kosovo and the Holocaust: Falsifying History
By Carl Savich
History is in many ways a myth we create for ourselves. History is constantly falsified to justify wars and territorial claims. Albanian apologists have falsified the role Albania played in the Holocaust to justify an illegal US/NATO war against Serbia and to allow for the creation of a Greater Albania that would include the Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija. The Albanian role in the Holocaust was falsified and manipulated to advance the creation of an “independent” Kosova, an ethnically pure Albania statelet, a second Albanian state in eastern Europe.
The Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Albania are estimated at 591 from 1941 to 1944, when a Greater Albania was sponsored by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. There were 33 known families of Albanian Jews living in pre-war Albania. The largest Jewish community consisted of 15 Jewish families living in Vlora. According to the 1930 census, there were 204 Jews living in Albania. At the Wannsee Conference in 1942, when the Final Solution was organized, the total Jewish population of Albania was listed as 200 Jews. By 1939 there were Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria.
What role did Albania play in the Holocaust? Albanian apologists maintain that no Jews were killed in Albania during the Holocaust. Is this accurate? What is the context of this statement? Albanian apologists have consciously and methodically falsified the Albanian role in the Holocaust. The way this was done was to totally suppress the fact that Kosovo-Metohija was a part of Albania from 1941 to 1944. Also left out is the fact that a Greater Albania was in fact created that included not only Kosovo-Metohija, Kosova in the Greater Albania ideology, but southern Serbian territory, territory in southern Montenegro, and western Macedonia, or Illirida. Albanian apologists distort history by implying that it was Albanians that rescued Jews. But in fact it was the Italian occupation forces that opposed the Final Solution and who rescued Jews. Another falsification is the omission of the role played by Xhafer Deva, a Kosovar Albanian Muslim, in the Greater Albanian state and in the Holocaust.
Albanian apologists falsify the history of the Holocaust by suppressing the fact that it was Adolf Hitler who first created a Greater Albania that included the Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija. They assiduously cover-up the fact that it was Adolf Hitler who set the precedent for an “independent” Kosova, an ethnically pure Albanian Kosova. Albanian apologists have carefully suppressed and deleted this fact.
Rescue in Albania by Harvey Sarner was published in book form in 1997 just in time for the Kosovo conflict and the start of the KLA terrorism campaign sponsored by the US/EU/NATO. It began being used as a propaganda tract immediately. The book was to pave the way for US military intervention in Serbia. It was first published as a booklet in 1992 as “The Jews of Albania”. It was released following the aliyah or emigration of the entire Jewish population out of Albania. They settled in Tel Aviv and other towns and cities in Israel. Little is revealed about the author. This throws up red flags. But Sarner did play a major role in the emigration of Albanian Jews to Israel. So the publication initially was payback or a goodwill gesture from Sarner for the emigration out of Albania to Israel. Israel got 300 new citizens and Albania got the pamphlet “The Jews of Albania”, a thank you note.
Rescue in Albania is nothing more than a thinly-veiled propaganda tract. His subtitle is: “One Hundred Percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from Holocaust.” The book features an Albanian and Israeli flag on the cover. Van Christo, the Albanian president of the Frosina Foundation, has used the book for “fund raising purposes” to obtain money for the separatist campaign in Kosovo. Lobby money can buy you a lot of lies. That is the American way. And Sarner knows that.
In this propaganda tract, Sarner says nothing about the 21st SS Division “Skanderbeg”, made up primarily of Kosovar Muslim recruits, nothing about the genocide committed by Albanians against the Serbian and Jewish populations of Kosovo, and the genocide in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Croatia. He says nothing about the destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches and cathedrals in Kosovo. He says nothing about the murder of Serbian Orthodox priests. Is it ignorance? It is willful ignorance. He suppresses and deletes anything negative about Albania and Albanians. A fundamental aspect of propaganda is that it is one-sided, subjective, and tells only half the story. Under this definition, Rescue in Albania is pure propaganda.
In October, 1997, the Albanian American Civic League (AACL, Lobbi Shqiptar), headed by Joe DioGuardi, began a systematic campaign to use the book by Sarner as a propaganda tool in the upcoming Kosovo separatist/terrorist war. DioGuardi lost his re-nomination bid in 1988 for Congress. Rejected by US voters, DioGuardi turned his efforts to the Muslim Kosovars, representing the citizens of another country, Yugoslavia. The AACL had been founded in 1989 by DioGuardi to revive the Greater Albania ideology established by the 1878 First League of Prizren. In 1943, Nazi Germany re-established the dormant Greater Albania ideology or program by establishing the Second League of Prizren under Xhafer Deva.
DioGuardi’s agenda for the AACL is stated as follows: “to liberate the seven million Albanian people in the Balkans from hostile Slavic domination.” This is an echo of Hitler’s statements regarding the Sudeten Germans in 1938. It is nothing less than a racist, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi ideology and campaign of expansion, to create a Greater Albania. The AACL requested that Thomas Lantos and Benjamin Gilman write a Forward to Rescue in Albania. The League distributed 10,000 copies, mostly to influential Jews in the US as propaganda for the coming separatist conflict in Kosovo-Metohija. Congressman Gilman and James Traficant then sent copies of the book with personal letters to each Jewish member of Congress with a “Dear Colleague” letter to other House members.
Sarner begins his book on the Holocaust with a discussion of Greater Albania, "The Four Vilayets” under Ottoman Turkey: Janina, Shkodra, Kosovo, and Manastir. This is merely a parroting of the Greater Albania ideology. Sam Vaknin, in “The Myth of Greater Albania”, October 18, 1999, in the Central Europe Review, argued the opposite view: “Historically, there was never a ‘Greater Albania’ to hark back to.” But this is absolutely and patently incorrect and false. Vaknin conveniently and inexplicably suppresses and deleted any mention of the 1878 Albanian League of Prizren, whose sole raison d’etre was to create a Greater Albania. In 1943, the Nazis sponsored the creation of a Second League of Prizren, whose goal again, was to create a Greater Albania. The Kosovar Albanian Muslim Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division was created to establish a Greater Albania. In fact, from 1941 to 1944, there was a Greater Albania which Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini created. Vaknin seems to have amnesia on this point. He apparently has deleted the period 1941 to 1944 from his memory. This is convenient for his argument. Four years in the history of Kosovo and Albania are erased from the history books. It is as if the period 1941 to 1944 never even existed. The supporters of Greater Albania and the creation of an independent Kosova are in serious denial and self-repression. Why? They don’t want to admit to themselves, or anyone else, that Adolf Hitler devised and developed the Greater Albania and independent Kosova policies long before they did. Adolf Hitler was there first. Hitler was prescient and way ahead of the curve on Kosovo. And this is why there is denial, amnesia, and psychological self-repression. The result is a falsification of history.
This discussion of a Greater Albania is just recycled by Sarner from handouts his Albanian minders provided to him. There is no question that Sarner has been provided Albanian handlers to help him with his facts. What Sarner was not told is that these so-called Albanian Vilayets have non-Albanian majorities and were never part of Albania. This is the myth of Greater Albania. Janina is in northern Greece and has never been part of Albania. The population is majority Greek. There is a small Albanian minority in that former Ottoman Turkish “vilayet”. Manastir, or Bitola today, is in southern Macedonia which is majority Macedonian with a minuscule Albanian population. It was never part of Albania. Shkodra is the territory around southern Montenegro. Montenegro has a minority Albanian population and has never been part of Albania. Kosovo-Metohija is the cradle of the Serbian Orthodox church and of Serbian culture. The towns, cities, and villages all have Serbian names from the medieval period when it was part of Serbia. The oldest Serbian Orthodox churches are located in Kosovo. Albanian settlement and colonization during the Ottoman Turkish period could not erase its Serbian heritage. Moreover, Kosovo-Metohija was never a part of Albania. In fact, there had never been an Albanian state until 1912. But Sarner is silent about all of this.
There are many factual errors and mistakes showing Sarner’s total and complete ignorance of the actual Holocaust history of Albania. He referred to “General Futzstun, the Gestapo chief…” There was no such person named Futzstun. In fact, this was SS Brigadefuehrer Jozef Fitzhum (1896-1945), who was the Higher SS and Police Leader (Hoherer SS und Polizeifuehrer, HSSPF) in Albania. Fitzhum was responsible for internal security, the war against the resistance or guerrillas, and the implementation of the Final Solution. He assumed control in Albania after German forces occupied Albania following the surrender of Italy in September, 1943. He had been the police chief in Vienna from 1938 to 1940. Fitzhum created the 21st SS Division Skanderbeg with Xhafer Deva, made up mostly of Kosovar Muslim Albanians. As noted by Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews (1961), Skanderbeg played a major role in the Holocaust, rounding up the Jews in Greater Albania who were subsequently sent to Bergen-Belsen where they were killed.
Sarner admitted that Jews in Kosovo were being sent to the concentration camps where they were killed: “All around them…in the annexed territories, Jews were being transported to the death camps.” He admits that Kosovo Jews were being killed. He doesn’t admit that it was the Albanians who rounded up the Jews so that they could be killed. Why the omission? He is writing propaganda. He seeks to falsify the Albanian role in the Holocaust.
He grossly exaggerated the uniqueness of the “rescue” of Jews in Albania: “In Athens, the Jews refused to supply a list and there was a 50% survival rate.” He is factually wrong. In fact, the survival rate was 66% in Athens for Jews. Athens, like Albania, was in the Italian occupation zone. This explains why the Jews were “rescued”, not because of Albanian actions. It would be analogous to a cheerleader claiming credit for a win of the football team. In short, the Albanians had nothing to do with the so-called rescue. This is giving the Albanians credit for something that they were not responsible for. It is a falsification of history. It is out and out propaganda.
By contrast, in Bulgaria, an estimated 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were “rescued”. But Bulgarians did allow the Jews of Macedonia and Thrace, then a part of a Greater Bulgaria, to be deported and killed by German forces. Sarner harped on the propaganda statement that there were more Jews in Albania after World War II than before it. But this is misleading. There were only 200 Jews in all of Albania proper during the war. These Albanian Jews were “rescued” because the Italian occupation forces did not support the German Final Solution. Because of this fact, Jews in Eastern Europe all fled to Italian zones of occupation to escape German incarceration and deportation. The Italians also “rescued” Serbs from genocidal attacks by Croatian Ustasha forces, Bosnian Muslims, and Kosovar Albanian Muslims. Albania was part of the route to then Palestine, containing several ports. Jewish refugees passed through Albania because it was on the way to Palestine, not because of an Albanian desire to “rescue” Jews. This is an absurd propaganda construction concocted by Sarner and his Albanian handlers .
Sarner does not examine World War II at any length. Although his subject matter is purportedly on World War II and the Holocaust, there is very little on the Holocaust itself. He finally gets around to discussing the Holocaust period in “Chapter 7”, which he titled “The Germans”. Most of the book is on Jewish settlement in Albania and the 1930s period when Jewish-American Herman Bernstein was the US Ambassador to Albania. There is almost no account of the Holocaust and World War II. Why is this? This is because Sarner does not want to elucidate, but obfuscate. He wants to cover-up, not reveal.
He starts off with an incorrect assertion: “The fact” is “ that the Albanian Government and people did not cooperate with the Germans...” According to Sarner, Xhafer Deva, the Kosovar Muslim Interior Minister denied the list of Jews to the German forces on page 43. He offers no evidence for these statements. Factually, the Albanian Government and people did cooperate with the Germans. Indeed, Deva helped to organize the Nazi 21st Waffen SS Division “Skanderbeg”. Moreover, there was an Albanian Muslim Battalion of about 300 men in the Bosnian Muslim 13th Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS “Handschar/Handzar”. Rudi Sommerer was the commander of the Albanian Battalion in the Handzar Nazi SS Division. Kosovar Albanian Muslim Nazir Hodic was a prominent member of the Albanian Battalion in Handzar. This Albanian Battalion would later form the core of the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division. The SS designed special gray skull caps for the Albanian Nazi SS troops. The Albanian Skanderbeg SS Division also had its own symbol created by the SS and worn as a collar patch, a goat’s head helmet supposedly modeled on the one worn by Skanderbeg himself. Sarner doesn’t even discuss the Balli Kombetar (BK), an ultra-nationalist group committed to creating a Greater Albania that would include Kosovo. Sarner says nothing about the known and widespread collaboration of the Balli Kombetar with the Italian and German occupation forces.
The reason there was a “rescue” in Albania was because the Italian government did not support the Final Solution and prevented its implementation. The German anti-Jewish policy was termed “the German disease” by the Italians.
Albanians, however, did play a major role in the Holocaust, the mass killings of Albanian Jews. Sarner plays dumb. All anyone has to do is to check Raul Hilberg’s seminal Holocaust book, The Destruction of the European Jews from 1961, to learn that Albanians played a key and fundamental role in the Holocaust. Sarner calls Kosovo a part of “The Annexed Territories”. He doesn’t reveal that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini created a Greater Albania. He doesn’t tell us that Kosovo-Metohija, parts of Montenegro, southern Serbia, and western Macedonia were all parts of a Greater Albania. Why? This is the exact same goal today of US foreign policy and of NATO. It is Adolf Hitler’s vision. But today, Hitler’s vision is taken up and revived by the US and NATO and Joe DioGuardi and Thomas Lantos. But Hitler did it first. But of course, Sarner is unaware of all this. His is a blissful ignorance. He does concede that Kosovo was made part of Albania: “In April, 1941” Kosovo “was annexed to Albania…”
Here is what Sarner says about Kosovo: “The Jews in the ‘annexed area’ were not as fortunate as the Jews in Albania proper. Life in the annexed territories was not as secure and there were unfortunate incidents of Jews being abused by the local people.” So he does grudgingly admit that Albanians did participate in the anti-Semitic outrages against the Jewish population, although he does not use the word “Kosovar Muslim” or “Albanian” but refers to “the local people”.
There was a Jewish family that was killed in Albania. The Jewish family Ardel was killed by the Nazis in Albania, but Sarner qualifies this as being a family of partisans. They were killed not because they were Jewish, but because they were partisans.
Bernd Jurgen Fischer, the foremost US historian on Albania during the Holocaust, a professor of history at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis---Fort Wayne, explained the role of the BK as follows: Much of the Balli Kombetar, which had remained aloof, was finally convinced to throw in its lot with the Germans.” Fischer noted that three members of the BK joined the Rexhep Mitrovica cabinet in January, 1944. Mitrovica was a “Kosovar” or “Kosovan” Albanian. Mitrovica was the Prime Minister in the Nazi-created Greater Albania regime, later replaced by the Zogist Fikri Dine. Xhafer Deva, a Kosovar Muslim, was the interior minister under the Nazi regime. Thus, the two highest positions, the prime minister and interior minister of Greater Albania, were held by Kosovars from Kosovo. Kosovo Albanian Muslims ran Greater Albania.
The collaboration of the Balli Kombetar with the Nazi and fascist forces is well-documented and well established. According to Fischer, “elements of the Balli Kombetar supported the Germans.” Fischer offered conclusive historical evidence and documentation that the Balli Kombetar, although opportunistic, concerned with gaining power, and forcefully annexing “Kosova” to a Greater Albania, was a Nazi/fascist collaborationist group. In February, 1944, British liaison officers reported that it was difficult for the partisans and resistance groups to attack the German forces because “they were being screened by elements of the Balli Kombetar and that these forces had become a normal part of any German force.” Bill Stone, in a review of Bernd Fischer’s book Albania at War, 1939-1945, wrote: “The National Front, however, fragmented completely and for the most part its local leaders chose to cease their already limited resistance activities and collaborate with the occupiers.” This is conclusive proof that the BK was a Nazi/fascist grouping. Fischer leaves no doubt about the role of the BK during the Holocaust. This is why Sarner deletes and covers up any mention of the BK.
In “The Myth of Greater Albania”, Sam Vaknin argued that “in Albania proper, three anti-fascist resistance movements-… Balli Kombetar (the National Front)…fought against the occupiers.” This is patently and obviously incorrect and constitutes a falsification of the history of the BK. It also whitewashes the BK. Factually, the BK was a Nazi/fascist collaborationist movement, not an “anti-fascist resistance movement”. The Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress published Albania: A Country Study in which the Nazi/fascist collaborationist role of the BK was explained as follows:
Some Balli Kombetar units cooperated with the Germans against the communists, and several Balli Kombetar leaders held positions in the German-sponsored regime. Albanian collaborators, especially the Skanderbeg SS Division, also expelled and killed Serbs living in Kosovo. …The nationalistic Geg chieftains and the Tosk landowners often came to terms with the Italians, and later the Germans….
Why the ignorance? Why does Bernd Jurgen Fischer and the Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress know the role of the BK but other “experts” do not? Clearly, the goal here is to create PR and propaganda for the creation of a Greater Albania including Kosovo, or the practical equivalent, an “independent Kosova”. To reveal the factual history of the BK would not help in the creation of an “independent Kosova”. The whole game here is to conceal the fact that Adolf Hitler was the original sponsor of an independent Kosova, part of a Greater Albania. Logically speaking, it would not help in the creation of an independent Kosova if it was revealed that the BK was a Nazi/fascist group that also sought the same thing, but with Adolf Hitler’s help, instead of Bill Clinton’s. The syllogism would not work.
Sarner incorrectly implied that Albania escaped all the horrors of the Final Solution and Holocaust. But this is not true. Albania too experienced the Holocaust. The German occupation forces imposed anti-Jewish laws in Kosovo. Kosovo Jews wore “J” for “Juden” or “Jew”. Kosovo Jews wore white armbands with the word “Jude” in black letters. ID cards were stamped with a red “J”. Josef Fitzhum was determined to carry out the Final Solution in Albania. Fitzhum ordered the Jews of Vlora deported. And at least one Jewish family was killed.
The Albanian Government played an active role in the Holocaust. On April 1, 1942, the Albanian Minister of the Interior gave instructions to the Albanian Prefect of Police that Jews who came after the war started should be “gathered on a field of concentration.” On March 20, 1942, he had ordered that the Jews be imprisoned and a list of Jews provided. In Note C, The Fields of Concentration, Sarner conceded that this euphemistic language meant a concentration camp: “This was the name given to what were otherwise known as concentration camps. These were camps for civilians and…their populations were mainly Jews….The camps were surrounded by barbed wire….It was an ugly place.” This is a very roundabout and disingenuous and dishonest way to admit that the Albanian Government set up concentration camps for Jews in Albania. It is artful spin and propaganda. But it is also a malicious attempt at falsifying history. Sarner is rewriting history, creating a phony and bogus history.
Sarner even finally conceded that the Albanian Government and Albanian authorities took an active part in the extermination of European Jews: “In June, 1943…the Albanian police chief suggested the jailing of certain Jews:
‘According to our investigation the Jews listed below are dangerous because they are propaganderizing [sic] against the Axis (Rome-Berlin) and they want to organize and hold meetings. We think these people should be taken away from here as soon as possible to one of the concentration fields, because their staying here could be dangerous to the regime.’”
To complete the circle, Sarner finally grudgingly admits that the Albanian Government and people played a major role in the Holocaust and Final Solution: “In April, 1944, the Germans shipped 400 Jews from the annexed territories to Bergen-Belsen; 100 survived the war.” Sarner then grudgingly admitted that the Albanians participated in the murder of at least 300 Albanian Jews, Jews who lived in Greater Albania.
Then Sarner creates a propaganda smokescreen by arguing absurdly that the Albanians only helped to kill only 40% of the Jewish population of Kosovo, then a part of Greater Albania: “According to our report the survival rate in Kosove [sic] was sixty percent, which made it, relatively, one of the areas with the highest percentage of survival in occupied Europe.” This is a patently absurd and nonsensical argument. It displays a bizarre moral calculus.
Sarner parrots the Albanian and US State Department policy on the Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija as follows: “The status of Kosova[sic], currently a part of Yugoslavia, is in contention today. Albanians favor either independence for Kosova or its being a part of Albania. The people of the area are ethnic Albanians.” Of course, this statement too is incorrect and is patently absurd. The borders of Yugoslavia are recognized by the United Nations and by international law. Yugoslavia, as a sovereign nation, has a right and duty to safeguard and protect its own internationally recognized and legal borders. But Sarner knows all that. Propaganda is not written to be rational. As Hitler noted, propaganda appeals to the emotions and subjective and irrational nature of man. This is what Sarner is appealing to.
What is the Kosovo conflict all about? Edith Durham in The Burden of the Balkans, published in 1905, explained the Albanian goal in Kosovo succinctly and clearly:
The Christian the Albanian persecutes is the Slav Christian, and this is the old, old race hatred. Of all the passions that sway human fortunes, race hatred is, perhaps, the strongest and the most lasting.
The Kosovo conflict is all about “race hatred”, what we call “racism” today. It is all about finishing the job Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini started. It is called genocide and ethnic cleansing. This is the real goal. This is why Sarner is falsifying the history.
Durham also argued that the Shqip or Albanian language is an “Aryan tongue”. The Nazi/fascist sponsors of Greater Albania in 1941 would also argue that the Albanians were part of the Aryan, or master race, a superior race.
In 1991, virtually the entire Jewish population of Albania left for Israel. The Jews were airlifted to Israel after the collapse of the Communist regime. Albania under the Communist regime of Enver Hoxha maintained no diplomatic relations with Israel. Hoxha abolished religion and created an atheistic state in Albania. Today, there are less than 40 Jews in all of Albania. They live in the capital Tirana. In Kosovo, the small Jewish population was ethnically cleansed out of Kosovo in 1999 along with Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians after NATO troops occupied the Serbian province. The Kosovo Jews fled to Belgrade. There are no more Jews living in Kosovo today, which is under NATO military occupation.
Durham, Edith. The Burden of the Balkans. London: Edward Arnold, 1905.
Fischer, Bernd Jurgen. Albania at War, 1939-1944. W. Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.
---King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania. Boulder: East European Monographs, 1984.
---“The Jews in Albania during the Zogist and Second World War Period.” Illyria. Albanische Studenten in Hamburg. Deutschland.
---“The Germans in Albania during the Second World War and After.” Lecture held on November 28th, 2003---Albanian Flag Day---in Hamburg. Illyria. Albanische Studenten in Hamburg. Deutschland.
Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, Inc., 1961.
Kohen, Anna. “Remembering Albania’s Protection of the Jews during the Holocaust.” May 2, 1997. Frosina Information Network: An Albanian Immigrant & Cultural Resource. Boston, MA.
Kotani, Apostol. The Hebrews in Albania during Centuries. Tirana, Albania:
---The Jews of Albania. Cathedral City, CA: Brunswick Press, 1992.
Vaknin, Sam. “The Myth of Greater Albania.” Central Europe Review. October 18, 1999.