A statue bearing the names of 23 Kosovo Albanians who rescued Jews from the Holocaust during World War II was inaugurated Wednesday in the capital, Pristina.
The “Wall of Honor” statue was placed in a park in Pristina in the presence of some of the rescuers’ descendants, political leaders, and the U.S. and German ambassadors.
Some 500 Jews lived in Kosovo, then part of former Yugoslavia, at the beginning of the war. Many were arrested, and deported to nearby prisons or Nazi-managed camps and almost half of them died.
Local Albanians helped scores of Jews to escape, usually taking them to neighboring Albania.
Leke Rezniqi’s great-grandfather Arslan rescued Jewish physician Chaim Abrabanel, who was working in Skopje, now in North Macedonia. Arslan Rezniqi sheltered him and worked with another Albanian, Arif Alickaj, to prepare false documents and take Abrabanel safely to Albania.
“That shows only the example of the uniqueness of Albanian rescue,” Leke Rezniqi told The Associated Press. “He promised with the highest level of promise, the concept of the besa (’trust’ in Albanian), which means that you never betray that promise, even though you would have to sacrifice your own family.”
In 2008 Arslan Rezniqi was the first Kosovar to be included in the “Righteous Among the Nations” list from Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust.
Since 2021, Leke Rezniqi has lived in Haifa, Israel. Abrabanel’s niece Rachel-Shelly Levy-Drummer helped him to emigrate and gain Israeli citizenship.