Albanian Muslim Rescuers During the Holocaust: Photographs by Norman Gershman

On View February 28 - July 11, 2008
Reception: Thursday, February 28, 2008, 5:30-7:30 PM; Program: 6:30 PM

"Jews are God's people like us." - Aferdita Gyergjani, righteous Albanian

When post-World War II Europe found itself devastated by the loss of its Jewish population, Albania was the only country to boast a larger number of Jewish people than it had housed prior to the Holocaust. Over 2,000 Jews from Albania, Greece, Austria, and Italy were hidden in the homes of Albanian Muslim families throughout the War. Norman Gershman, an American photographer fascinated by these stories, traveled to Albania and Kosovo to chronicle the tales of the righteous Albanians and their devotion to Besa, an Albanian code of honor, which means "to keep the promise."

In Gershman's meetings with righteous Albanians, each photo subject referenced his or her Besadash;faith and honor–as the source of personal courage in rescuing Jewish people during the Holocaust. As Basri Hasani, a righteous Albanian, describes, "My door is always open to someone in need." It is the Besa of the Albanian people that Gershman captures in his photographs.

Gershman's portraits serve as representations of the character of each individual depicted, as well as historical documentation of the Albanian Resistance. Each portrait, which often illuminates the presence of an artifact, is accompanied by a personal statement of the individual's honorable act. Through subtle portraiture, Gershman is able to communicate the honor, faith, and altruism of Albanian rescuers during the Holocaust.