Incredible stories of the bravery and compassion shown by Albanian Muslims during the darkest days of the Second World War were brought to life as part of a powerful exhibition in the town centre.
Organised by Bury Council and Bury Faith Forum, the event told the remarkable tales of Albanians who risked their lives to protect Jewish people from the appalling horrors of fascist persecution and the Holocaust.
In the spring of 1939 the Balkan country was invaded by Fascist Italy and a puppet state was quickly established. This was later followed by a German invasion in 1943 following the Italian surrender.
Hundreds of Jews were killed in Greater Albania throughout the war. However thousands of Jewish refugees fled to Albania-proper where they were treated well by the local population and shielded from the genocide.
Spanning the period from 1939 to liberation in 1944, each of the exhibition’s displays related how individual Albanians took in Jewish friends, family members and neighbours, and in some cases even complete strangers, at great risks to their own safety.
As a result of their courageous actions, the Jewish population of Albania actually increased during the period of Nazi persecution.
Among the emotive stories was that of Basim and Aishe Kadiu who twice sheltered Jakov and Sandra Batino — Jewish refugees from Greece — from both the Italians and Nazis at their home in the village of Kavaje.
During the time they were hiding the four shared a single bedroom and became good friends. Basim and Aishe went to great lengths to protect Jakov and Sandra, including cutting a hole in the bars of the bedroom window, keeping a constant watch for German patrols, and once, together with their father, taking the couple to a remote village when Germans began house-to-house searches. After the war Jakov and Sandra returned to Greece and later relocated to Israel.
Decades later Basim and Aishe’s daughter Merushe was invited to Israel in 1992 to receive the Righteous Among the Nations award.