The volume - published by the Giuntina publishing house in Florence in the 2010 - publishes the proceedings of a conference held in Bari in January of the 2010 entitled: «The Jews in Albania under fascism. A story to rebuild ", which was attended by numerous scholars of different disciplines and backgrounds.The conference allowed to reconstruct the framework of studies and archival sources for the history of Jews in Albania and presented the results of some recent research.
In his essay «From the Empire to the States. Jews in the Balkans and in Albania between the second half of the nineteenth century and the eve of the Second World War»Laura Brazzo gives a broad overview of the Jewish presence in the Balkans and in Albania during that long period, from 1850 to 1939.
The reference to the situation in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the '700 is of particular interest. In those years an Italian traveling to Istanbul wrote in his diary:"A foreigner who has known the intolerance of London and Paris, must be very surprised to see a church between a mosque and a synagogue, and a dervish alongside a Capuchin friar ... what is even more surprising is to note that often this spirit of tolerance generally prevails among the people, for which one sees Turks, Jews, Catholics, Armenians, Greeks and Protestants conversing together, on business or pleasure matters, with such harmony and good will as if they were of the same country and of the same religion ".In fact they were all, albeit in different ways, with different rights and privileges, citizens of the same country, all of them subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
During the 800 and up to the 1912-1913 Jews in the Balkans were gathered around the major Ottoman or former Ottoman urban centers - from Belgrade to Thessaloniki, from Sofia to Monastir and then to Constantinople and Smyrna. Others lived in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Split. They felt towards the Turkish government a feeling of gratitude for the "refuge" offered after the expulsion of 1492 from Spain, for the freedom to profess their faith and for the opportunity to exercise the professions in which they were best paid.
In the chapter of his contribution «Jews in Albania: a different story (1912-1939)»The Author underlines that the history of the Jews in Albania differs from that of the other countries of the former Ottoman Empire for at least two reasons: for the discontinuity of the presence; for the Romanist (Greek) origin and finally for the fact that they did not constitute a community but only small "colonies": in fact they were not recognized as a religious minority.
In Albania the Jews enjoyed a great tranquility that derived both from the relative indifference of the Albanians to religion and from the small number: in 1920 they resided in Albania among the Jewish 90 and 120, between Valona, Argirocastro and Elbasan; in 1930 the number had risen to 204, with a presence also in Tirana.
In the 1937-1939 within the League of Nations it was decided to make Albania the reception center for German Jewish refugees. Even an English businessman, Leo Elton, in 1935 went to Albania and traced the first lines of a project: to create an alternative to Palestine in Albania. The project, which obviously was not carried out, remains an interesting testimony of the ideas and projects that circulated in Europe in the 30 years around Albania.
In the 1937 Jews 191 resided in Albania, as shown by a request made by the Albanian Ministry of the Interior to all the prefectures of the country.
The contributions of Nevila Nika, Director of the Central State Archive of the Republic of Albania "The presence of Jews in the Albanian archival documentation" and of Silvia Trani "The history of the Italian-Albanian Union. An investigation into the main documentary resources conserved in Italy »illustrate the history of Albanian Jews from an exclusively archival point of view. Nevila Nika concludes his paper by stating that the precious documentation possessed by the Central Albanian State Archive highlights that, over the centuries, the relations and coexistence between Albanians and Jews seem to be characterized by a prejudice-free normality.
Giovanni Villari in "The fascist occupation system in Albania" and Michele Sarfatti in "The conditions of the Jews in Albania between the 1938 and the 1943" deal more specifically with the years from the 1938 to the 1943.
From a temporal point of view - writes Villari - the union between Italy and Albania can be divided into three periods: the first goes from the Easter of 1939 to the beginning of the Greek campaign: it was the moment of the greatest political transformations -institutional and of the greatest Italian economic dynamism in Albania. The second period covers the whole of the Greek campaign, when all the shortcomings and deficiencies of the fascist political-military apparatus came to light. About a third of Albania was occupied by Greek troops and had to suffer the destruction due to the passage of the front. The campaign, which ended with the decisive support of the German ally, led to the creation of Greater Albania, with the annexation of Kosovo and Dibrano. In the last part of the 1941 the third and last phase starts, until the tragic epilogue of the 8 September 1943.
Michele Sarfatti illustrates the first results of his research on two specific aspects of the Jewish affair in Albania: the general legal situation and the refugee policy on the eve of the Italian invasion; the general legal situation under Italian occupation.
Albania declared itself independent in the 1912. In the young state religions enjoyed a condition of full equality, as was established in the 1 Constitution of December 1928. Principle confirmed under Italian occupation in the 3 June 1939 Constitution.
According to the May 1930 census, in Albania there were Jewish 204, out of a population of around 1 million inhabitants. According to what was written in the memorial of the Albanian Jew Josef Rafael Jakoel "The Israelites in Albania", on the eve of the Italian occupation of the 1939 in April the Albanian and foreign Israelites were no longer of 150, subdivided into approximately 33 families.
He thus describes their working and economic conditions: " They dealt mainly with commerce, which ranged from the wholesale trade to the small retailer. There were also small street traders who went around the villages and even stalls in the city markets. In addition, there were freight forwarders, a dentist in Vlore, two pharmacists in Shkodra, some craftsmen and only one civil servant».
In the 1938 the condition of European Jews fell. Anti-Semitic legislation, until then only present in Nazi Germany, was introduced in various other countries, including Italy. This caused a noticeable growth in the flow of refugees, who in a very small part headed to Albania (according to statistics only 31 were the Jews who chose to emigrate to Albania).
Neither the government of King Zog nor those subsequently established during the Italian occupation banned the granting of Albanian citizenship to foreign Jews. Overall, concludes Michele Sarfatti, "By the will of Italian fascism, the Jewish Albanian citizens in Albania were struck by a legislation that was less harsh and less complex than that issued by fascism itself in Italy against Jewish Italian citizens. In carrying out this, Rome behaved differently from the way it acted in the annexed Balkan regions in the 1941 (where the current legislation in the metropolis extended) and from how Berlin acted in Austria, and then in Serbia, and Sofia in Macedonia ".An appendix to his contribution Sarfatti publishes the drafts of two anti-Jewish decrees of 14 maggio1939 and 2 June 1939, prepared but not issued by the General Lieutenancy of Italy in Albania.
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