Author: Irene Grunbaum
Little is known worldwide about the fact that only Albania saved its own Jews from Nazi occupiers of Albania during WWII while also offering refuge to other Jews who had escaped into Albania from Serbia, Austria, and Greece. An American, Harvey Samer, brought this to light in 1994 in his booklet, The Jews of Albania — the first publication in the English language describing Albania’s heroic rescue of Jews during the Holocaust. The names of the courageous Muslim and Christian Albanians who saved the Jews are honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and are inscribed on the Rescuers Wall at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. where, during dedication ceremonies, its Director, Miles Lerman, gratefully stated, “Albania was the only country in Europe which had a larger Jewish population at the end of the war than before it! ”
Now, in a recently-published book, Escape through the Balkans, the Autobiography of Irene Grunbaum, translated and edited by Katherine Morris, Irene Grunbaum describes, in the extensive section on Albania, her parting thoughts as a Jew after being protected and sheltered by the Albanian Muslims and Christians:
“Farewell, Albania, I thought. You have given me so much hospitality, refuge, friends and adventure. Farewell, Albania. One day I will tell the world how brave, fearless, strong, and faithful your sons are; how death and the devil can’t frighten them. If necessary, I’ll tell how they protected a refugee and wouldn’t allow her to be harmed even if it meant loosing their lives. The gates of your small country remain open, Albania. Your authorities closed their eyes, when necessary to give poor, persecuted people another chance to survive the most horrible of all wars. Albania, we survived the siege because of your humanity. We thank you”.
Escape through the Balkans
The Autobiography of Irene Grunbaum
University of Nebraska Press
Lincoln And London