Righteous Albanian Muslim, 93, to be honoured in Poland for rescuing Jews

Righteous Albanian Muslim, 93, to be honoured in Poland for rescuing Jews

Xhemal Veseli will be recognised for his efforts during the Shoah, as commemoration group looks to unearth more stories of heroism in the region

Xhemal Veseli with Jonny Daniels
Xhemal Veseli with Jonny Daniels

A Muslim man from Albania who saved Jews during the Holocaust will attend an event in Poland honouring rescuers from across Europe.

Xhemal Veseli, 93, who is among a handful of Muslim rescuers alive today, will travel to Warsaw with Albania’s foreign minister, Edmond Panariti, whose family also saved Jews from the Holocaust.

They will attend in Warsaw an event titled “An Evening for the Righteous” on Nov. 14 organised by British-born Israeli, Jonny Daniels, who founded the From the Depths (FTD) Holocaust commemoration group.

“In the remarkably fragmented and aggressive world we live in today, religion sadly often divides us,” said Daniels. Testimonies like Xhemal’s “bring us together as Jews and Muslims.”

In addition to Albania, the event will be attended by rescuers from Poland and Belarus as well as officials from Israel, Denmark and the United States.

Xhemal Veseli and his late brother, Hamid, rescued two Jewish families from Italian occupation forces in 1943. Xhemal, then 17, walked with elderly Jews for 36 hours to his family home, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Israel.

Yad Vashem recognised the brothers as Righteous Among the Nations in 2004, while Derita Veseli, Xhemal’s wife, said her family also rescued Jews in Albania.

Daniels, who is originally from London, said FTD will be extending work in the Balkans, to highlight heroic stories of righteous Muslims.”Thee  are important stories and we must make sure they are remembered and never forgotten” he added.

This comes after FTD launched an initiative last year called the ‘Silent Heroes’ taxi service, giving free rides to elderly righteous people. He said two cabs will be sent to the Balkans, and “we will record their testimonies and use this as an important platform to build stronger ties and bridges between our communities and religions”.

The organisation also pledged to cover the costs of eye medication, Eylea, for Xhemal’s wife for the rest of her life, costing  £7,800 ($10,000) annually.

Albania was the among a handful of Nazi-occupied countries whose Jewish minorities grew during the Holocaust. Most of the 2,000 Jews living in Albania after the Holocaust were refugees from neighbouring countries.

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