Israeli experts study how Albanian Jews escaped Holocaust

Israeli and European historians gathered in Albania Tuesday to study how the country rescued its tiny Jewish population from the Holocaust. "The heroic rescue of Jews in Albania is very exceptional," said Mordechai Arbell, of the World Jewish Congress. "Jews have been saved in Albania for almost 2,000 years. The special harmonious life of the religious communities in this country must be an example to the world." Some 1,200 Jewish residents and refugees from other Balkan countries were hidden by Albanian families during World War II, according to official records. Albania was occupied between 1939 to 1943 by fascist Italy, followed by Nazi Germany until 1944. Resistance fighters who helped liberate the country formed the communist party that ruled Albania until 1990. Conference organizers said the event was aimed at gathering information on how Albania became a haven for persecuted Jews - a development that has received little international attention because Albania remained isolated for decades under Communism.