Muslim honored for saving Jews during Holocaust

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Brothers Hamid (left) and Xhemal Veseli, whose family saved Jews from the Holocaust. (JUF News)

A 93-year-old Albanian man — one of several Muslims still alive today who rescued Jews in Europe during the Holocaust — will be honored at an event titled “An Evening for the Righteous” on Nov. 14 in Warsaw.

Xhemal Veseli, 93, will be joined by other rescuers from Poland and Belarus in addition to officials from Israel, Denmark and the United States. Albania’s foreign minister, Edmond Panariti, whose family also saved Jews from the Holocaust, will accompany Veseli.

“In the remarkably fragmented and aggressive world we live in today, religion sadly often divides us,” said Jonny Daniels, organizer of From the Depths commemoration group. Testimonies such as Veseli’s, “bring us together as Jews and Muslims.”

In 1943, Veseli and his late brother, Hamid, rescued two Jewish families from Italian occupation forces. Xhemal was only 17 at the time. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, which recognized the brothers as Righteous Among the Nations in 2004, said that he walked with elderly Jews for 36 hours to his family’s home.

Xhemal’s wife, Derita, said her family also rescued Jews in Albania. From the Depths said it will cover the costs of her eye medication for her life, an annual cost of $10,000.

Albania has 75 righteous gentiles and, relatively speaking, rescued a larger percentage of Jews than countries such as Lithuania or Poland. The locals had a code of honor to which they attribute their conduct. Some 2,000 Jews were rescued and hidden by Albanians.

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