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Besa exhibition remembers Muslims who protected Jews
Bahrije Borici holds the Certificate of Honour awarded to her family
Bahrije Borici's family were awarded a Certificate of Honour for their bravery

A new exhibition in Staffordshire will remember the contribution of Muslims who helped to save Jews from persecution in World War II.

Photographer Norman H Gershman is showing his collection, 'Besa' at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) near Alrewas.

His work displays images and stories of the Albanian Muslims who sheltered Jews from the Nazis.

'Besa' runs from 18 February at the NMA, following Holocaust Memorial Day.


Gershman, who is American Jewish, said he is attempting to pay tribute to those who fulfilled 'besa', a code of honour in Albania that instructs people to protect others from danger at all costs.

Norman H Gershman
Norman Gershman spent six years compiling his research

Jewish World War II survivor, Dr Scarlett Epstein OBE, who was given asylum in Albania during the Holocaust, said: "I owe my survival to Albania and the generosity of its Muslim people. No country was prepared to offer my family and I asylum from the horrors of the Holocaust, except Albania.

"The Muslim Albanians welcomed us warmly which came as an extraordinary relief after having experienced the excesses of Nazi persecution."


One person featured in the exhibition is Bahrije Borici, who explained that her family ran great risks for what they did.

"When I was seventeen years old in 1943, my father Shaqir brought home Isak and Bela Bivas and their daughter Rashel, who was fourteen. They were friends.

"We were told that they would live with us as one family, posing as our relatives from another district. My father organised false passports with Albanian Muslim names. No one was to know they were Jewish. The Nazis had warned our community in Shkoder that anyone harbouring Jews would be killed.

"My father was the burgomaster of our district, and when the Germans demanded to know where Jews were located, my father said he had never heard of Jews in Shkoder… When the Germans conducted searches, the Bivas family hid in our cellar.

"Why did we hide our Jewish family? Well of course we would. We were one family."

The Besa exhibition is jointly sponsored by the Exploring Islam Foundation and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial in Israel). It is also being promoted by the Missing Pages campaign, which promotes tolerance between Islam and Judaism.

Every year on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January, the National Memorial Arboretum holds events remembering those who died under Nazi oppression.



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