FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 15, 2006
Schumer Receives Balkans Peace Award For Commemorating Albania’s Efforts To Protect Jews During The Holocaust
Under Nazi Occupation and in Direct Defiance of the Gestapo, the Albanian People Protected its Jewish Community and Sheltered Jews Seeking Asylum During the Holocaust
Schumer Introduced Bill to Honor Albania’s Heroic Efforts, Encourage International Recognition, and Reaffirm U.S –Albanian Relations
Honoring U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer for introducing legislation that commemorated Albania for its heroic efforts in protecting its Jewish community from the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust, the Albanian American Civic League (AACL) presented Senator Schumer with the 6th annual Balkans Peace Award. Under Nazi occupation and in direct defiance of Gestapo orders, the Albanian people refused to provide the names of Jews living in Albania and, instead, actively worked to protect both its native Jewish community and foreign Jews seeking asylum. Senator Schumer was honored for introducing a resolution on June 27, 2006 commending Albanians for protecting and saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
“While I’m tremendously privileged to accept the Balkans Peace Award, the real honor should go to the Albanians whose valiant efforts in the face of evil saved thousands of Jewish lives,” said Senator Schumer. “While too many nations sat idly by during one of the 20th century’s darkest hours, a courageous Albania resisted Gestapo orders in order to save lives, demonstrating the compassion and humanity that had, in many cases, been forgotten in the halls of government across the world.”
After Nazi Germany occupied Albania in 1943, the Gestapo demanded that Albania provide a list of Jewish residents and refugees living in the country. Despite threats from the Gestapo, Albanian leaders not only refused to provide a list of Jews living in Albania, but also actively worked to protect Jews by issuing false identity papers and sheltering Jews seeking asylum. On account of its courageous efforts, Albania had more Jewish residents after World War II than prior to the war, with approximately 1,800 Jews escaping to Albania from Western Europe and former Yugoslavia. In 1990, Albania was recognized by the Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations and 63 Albanians were designated Righteous Persons.
“Now, six decades since we liberated the Jews from Nazi death camps, we still see bloodshed from religious intolerance and, in Darfur, a genocide that will leave a permanent scar on our collective morality. The people of Albania and those who live by the Albanian code of honor, besa, are vital role models in today’s world,” added Senator Schumer.
Past recipients of the Balkans Peace Award include U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, and General Wesley Clark. The AACL, founded in 1989 by former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi and Albanian Americans, works to defend humans rights for the divided nation of more than seven million Albanians living side by side in the Balkans in Albania, Kosova, western Macedonia, southeastern Montenegro, Presheve, Medvegje, Bujanovc (southern Serbia), and Chameria (northern Greece). The AACL focuses on ending Albanian repression and preserving the culture, identity and human rights of Albanians throughout the world.
Senator Schumer and Senator John McCain submitted resolution 521 to commend the people of Albania for saving the lives of the 1,800 Jews who fled to Albania during the Holocaust. The Resolution also commends the Yad Vashem in Israel for recognizing the Albanian efforts, and it reaffirms the special relationship shared by the United States and Albania.