The Albanian-American Foundation and the Kosovo-Israel Friendship Association are pleased to announce the official opening of the Wall of Honor, modeled after Yad Vashem’s Wall of Remembrance in Israel, at the National Park in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, at 10:00 AM on Wednesday, August 23.
The Wall of Honor commemorates the unique role played by Albanians in Kosovo and Albania in rescuing Jews who sought refuge during the Holocaust, either in Albania or Kosovo.
More than 80 Albanians from Kosovo and Albania, who are known to have saved the lives of Jews during World War II, are inscribed on the Wall of Honor. These Kosovo Albanian rescuers were previously unrecognized due to the occupation of Kosovo during the war, both by the Germans and their Serbian nationalist collaborators.
The dedication ceremony, lasting an hour, will be led by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Advisor to the Albanian American Civic League and Executive Director of the Albanian-American Foundation, and Lekë Rezniqi, the chairman of the Kosovo-Israel Friendship Association. Speakers will include Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Pristina Mayor Përparim Rama, the President of the Albanian-American Civic League and Executive Director of the Albanian-American Foundation, Honoree Joseph J. DioGuardi, as well as dignitaries Avner Shalev, recently retired Chairman of Yad Vashem, and Professor Rachel “Shelly” Levy-Drummer, whose grandfather Arsllan Rezniqi rescued her during the Holocaust.
Lekë Rezniqi’s grandfather, Mustafë Rezniqi, co-founded the Kosovo-Israel Friendship Association with Xhangyle Ilijazi in 2005. His great-grandfather, Arsllan Rezniqi, was the first Kosovar Albanian to receive the Righteous Among the Nations award from Yad Vashem for rescuing and sheltering Jews in Deçan, Kosovo, in 1941 and ultimately transferring them to safety in Albania during World War II.
The Wall of Honor will not only recognize the contribution of individuals in Kosovo and Albania who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust but will also serve as a testament for future generations that evil will not prevail over justice and human rights.
The role played by Albanians in saving Jews during the Holocaust would not have been known without the journey made by Congressmen Tom Lantos and Joe DioGuardi to Albania in 1990. The last communist dictator of Albania, Ramiz Alia, provided them with a dossier documenting the rescue efforts with original letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs. DioGuardi, the first Albanian-American member of Congress, transferred this dossier to Yad Vashem with the help of his long-time Israeli friend Elli Streit.
Following the dedication of the Wall of Honor on August 23, a seminar will be held at the Emerald Hotel in Pristina from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM to discuss the role played by Kosovar Albanians in protecting the Jewish community of Kosovo before the war and the thousands of Jews from neighboring countries and Western Europe who sought refuge in Kosovo and Albania during the Holocaust. The speakers will include former Congressman Joseph J. DioGuardi, Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, Lekë Rezniqi, Avner Shalev, and Professor Shelly Levy-Drummer. Also involved are Agim Aliçkaj, a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of the Albanian-American Civic League and Foundation, whose father, Arif Aliçkaj, collaborated with Arsllan Rezniqi in rescuing Jews, and Dr. Faton Bislimi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of the Albanian-American Civic League and Foundation and editor of the Albanian Rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.