How an Albanian Muslim Rescued Two Jewish Families from Hitler

December 19, 2019 | Ilanit Chernick
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During the Axis powers’ occupation of Albania, Xhemal Veseli was one of many Muslims who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust. In 2004, Yad Vashem formally recognized him as one of the “Righteous among the Nations.” Ilanit Chernick tells the story of how he took in seven Jews:

The Mandil family escaped the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, fleeing to . . . Albania, which at the time was occupied by Italy. “My brother was a photographer in Tirana when he met a group of Jews who arrived from [the nearby city of] Kavajë,” [Veseli recounted]. “It was a coincidence that one of them from the group was a photographer, too; he was going to look for a job at a photographer’s shop in Tirana.”

It happened that the shop where Moshe Mandil was looking for a job was owned by a man named Neshad Prizerini, who had once been Mandil’s own apprentice. Prizerini offered Mandil a job and invited him, his wife, and two children to stay with his family.

At the time, his apprentice happened to be Veseli’s seventeen-year-old brother, who was sent there from [their native town of] Kruja to learn the trade. But when the Nazis invaded Tirana, “my brother phoned me to come and take them to Kruja,” Veseli recalled, “I went, and I took them in my cattle cart to Kruja—we sheltered them for five months.” . . .

Veseli later brought three members of the Ben-Yosef family from Tirana [as well], hiding both families in his barn. They remained with the Veseli family until liberation in November 1944.

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