Reader Rupa Shah brings word of a truly amazing photography exhibition and labor of love by Norman Gershman, Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in WW II. It documents the Muslims of Albania and Kosovo who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust saving at least 2,000 lives. Not a single Jew died in all of Albania during the War. If you live in or near Washington D.C. you are privileged to be able to see it at the JCC until November 30th.
The pictures alone, when you see them will alternately bring you to tears and make you proud of the good of which humanity is capable. One image in particular shows a bearded old gentleman with his hand over his heart in a gesture of profound nobility. And this is the quotation Gershman attributes to him:
“We Bektashi see God everywhere, in everyone. God is in every pore and every cell, therefore all are God’s children. There cannot be infidels. There cannot be discrimination. If one sees a good face one is seeing the face of God. God is Beauty. Beauty is God. There is no God but God.”
How can we Jews possibly see Muslims as our enemy when we see such images and read such sentiment?
Here is Gershman’s explanation of the project and its historical context:
“During World War II, Albania was unique among all nations occupied by Nazi Germany as no Jews were handed over to the Nazi killing machine. There was no government conspiracy; no underground railroad; no organized resistance of any kind. Only individual Albanians, acting alone, to save the lives of people whose lives were in immediate danger…My portraits of these people, and their stories, are meant to reflect their humanity, their dignity, their religious and moral convictions, and their quiet courage.”
Gershman is cooperating on a documentary entitled, God’s Work. You can view a 2 minute clip here. Google Video also features a rough version of a presentation Gershman made at a 2005 tribute dinner. Here are the individual histories of the rescuers.