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Albania Opposition Angers Leftists, Hailing WWII Collaborationist’s Reburial

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To the Communists, the Prefect of Tirana during the Italian and German occupation years (1939-1944) was a criminal and a collaborationist. He was also portrayed as a thief in a government-sponsored comedy that became popular under the decades-long Communist regime.

However, as Qazim Mulleti remains were reburied in a private ceremony in Tirana on Thursday, he received praise from many, including former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who described him as “someone in the wrong place and wrong time” who won the respect of the citizens of Tirana. Ahmed Kalaja, a popular Muslim cleric in Tirana, described him as a polyglot and good man.

“I hope that after the rehabilitation of his remains, the rehabilitation of his figure should follow in order for him to take the place that he deserves among the contributors to the Albanian state,” Kalaja wrote on Facebook.

Others recounted family tales about how Mulleti had saved antifascist fighters, or didn’t prosecute them when he became aware about their activities.

However, some leftwing activists reminded the public about the Italian Fascist regime’s practice of publicly hanging its enemies, and that one of the preferred places for hangings, a bazaar in Tirana, was just outside the home of Mulleti.

Albania was occupied by Mussolini’s Italy in April 1939 and by Nazi Germany from September 1943, following the surrender of the Italian government to the Allies. Mulleti had lived in exile during King Zog’s reign before the war and returned home following the Italian occupation.

Albania experienced a form of civil war as Communist activists started fighting the occupiers in the later years of the war, carrying out several murder attempts against collaborationists while the collaborationist authorities executed some of the leftwing guerrillas.

In one of the worst outbursts of violence, on 4 February 1944, dozens of citizens were arrested and executed on the spot as suspected Communists, in what appeared to be a reign of terror by the collaborationists.

After Mulleti left Albania, his extended family, including his teenage son, were put in concentration camps along with thousands of families of the Communists’ enemies.

It is believed that hundreds of internees died due to neglect by the camp authorities. Mulleti’s niece, Fatbardha Saraci, recounted the sufferings of the family to Margo Rejmer, a Polish scholar who studied Communism in Albania for her book Mud Sweeter than Honey.

Mulleti’s wife and son were sent to Tepelena concentration camp and later to the Myzeqe marshes, where they had to report twice a day and couldn’t go anywhere without permission.

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