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News 24 May 13

Kosovo Erects Plaque to Holocaust Victims

Authorities in Pristina have dedicated a commemorative plaque to victims of the Holocaust, a number of whom were saved by Kosovo Albanians during World War II.

Edona Peci

The plaque was erected in front of the Kosovo parliament in the framework of the ongoing “Week of Tolerance and Reconciliation”, while Kosovo leaders and representatives of the Jewish community took part in its inauguration on Thursday.

The inscription in Albanian, English, Hebrew and Serbian reads: “This is the place where he last synagogue of Kosovo stood until 1963. This plaque is raised in memory of the Kosovo Jews who perished in Nazi camps during the Holocaust. The people of Kosovo will never forget them.”

“We must never forget the Kosovo families who saved the Jewish population during this dark hour," said Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo Prime Minister who unveiled the plaque.

"We must also find strength today to move beyond conflict and beyond hate and reach out to our neighbours to join the community of free European Nations whose freedom today was built on the blood spilled during the Second World War,” he added.

The Prime Minister was referring to Jews saved by the old Albanian code of honour, known as “besa,” as they fled the Nazi regime through Kosovo to Albania during the war. This code obliged Albanians to take responsibility for the refugees.

"It was our duty to help Jewish refugees fleeing to safety. Kosovar families are proud to have saved as many as they could and today we remember those who sadly did not escape the Nazi terror,” Agron Rezniqi, representative of the Righteous Families of Kosovo, said.

 Yossef Levy, the ambassador of Israel to Belgrade; Photo: Kosovo Foreign Ministry

Yossef Levy, the ambassador of Israel, said the plaque also “expresses gratitude for the renewal of Jewish life in Kosovo, including the maintenance of the cemetery and the erection of the plaque on the site of the destroyed synagogue in Pristina."

The site for the plaque marks the exact spot where the last Jewish synagogue stood.

It was destroyed by the Yugoslav Communist regime in the 1960s at a time when many other old buildings including the old city bazaar were also being torn down.

Few Jews remain now in Kosovo. Islam is the predominant faith of Kovovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population, its Bosniak, Gorani, and Turkish minorities, and some members of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian minorities.

Ethnic Serbs, the largest minority in Kosovo, number 100,000 to 120,000, are mostly belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

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