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History of the Jews in Albania: Wikis

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History

First reports of Jews living in Albania date from the XII century AD. By the early sixteenth century, there were Jewish settlements in most of major cities of Albania such as Berat, Elbasan, Vlora, Durrës and also they are reported as well in Kosovo region. These Jewish families were mainly of Sephardic origin and descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Iberia in the end of XV century AD. In 1520 in Vlora were reported 609 Jewish households and also Vlora was also the site of Albania's only synagogue which was destroyed in the First World War. In 1673 the charismatic Jewish prophet Sabbatai Zevi was exiled by the sultan to the Albanian port of Ulqin, now in Montenegro dying there some years later.[1 ]

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20th century

1900-1939

According to the Albanian census of 1930, there were only 204 Jews registered at that time in Albania. The official recognition of the Jewish community was granted on April 2, 1937, while at that time this community consisted in about 300 members. With the rise of Nazi Germany a number of German and Austrian Jews took refuge in Albania. Still in 1938 the Albanian Embassy in Berlin continued to issue visas to Jews, at a time when no other European country was willing to take them.[1 ] One of the major Albanologist Norbert Jokl asked for the Albanian citizenship which was granted to him immediately, but this couldn't save him from concentration camps.

World War II

Albania had about 200 Jews at the beginning of the war[2 ]. Albania did end up with a few hundred more Jews than it had at the beginning of the war[3] and it was one of the few countries in Europe to do so. However, according to one report,[4] the small Jewish community of Vlore was expelled from the country.

Communist era

Throughout Albania’s communist rule under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, the Jewish community was isolated from the Jewish world, though this does not reflect anti-Jewish measures. In order to forge sustainable national unity as well as the new socialism, Hoxha banned confessional loyalties across the religious spectrum. In this manner, the fate of the Jewish community was inextricably linked to the fates of the Albanian society as a whole.

All religion was strictly banned from the country. The Jewish population numbered between 200-300 citizens. [2 ] After the fall of Communism, in 1991, nearly all the Jews of Albania were transported to Israel and settled predominately in Tel Aviv.

Jews in Albania today

Today, approximately only ten Jews remain in Albania, most in the capital, Tirana. Where there was once an active Jewish community, today, there exists very little organized communal life. An Albania-Israel Friendship Society is active in Tirana, but with little assistance. One synagogue remains in Vlorë, but is no longer in use.

References

  1. ^ a b A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology and folk culture by Robert Elsie Edition illustrated Publisher C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2001 ISBN 1850655707, 9781850655701 page 141
  2. ^ a b "Jewish Population of Europe Before the Holocaust Map". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/jewpop.html. Retrieved 2009-01-05.  
  3. ^ Albania at war, 1939-1945 by Bernd Jürgen Fischer Edition illustrated Publisher C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1999 ISBN 1850655316, 9781850655312 page 187 Albanian is certainly the only state in Europe where the Jewish population actually grew during the Axis occupation; it is estimated that there were 1800 jews in Albania at the end of war.
  4. ^ Albania's captives. Pyrrhus J. Ruches. Argonaut, 1965. p.155.

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