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(Left to right) David Michaels, director of U.N. and intercommunal affairs; Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president; Ambassador Ferit Hoxha, permanent representative of Albania to the United Nations; Allan J. Jacobs, president.

To commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, B’nai B’rith International held a panel discussion titled, “A Community Saved: The Rescue of Jews in Albania” at the United Nations in New York City. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha, permanent representative of Albania to the United Nations, delivered the opening remarks and spoke about his countrymen’s heroic wartime endeavors to save not only the Jews of Albania, but also Jewish refugees from other parts of Europe.

“I would like to continue to thank B’nai B’rith. B’nai B’rith is an organization that is well-known well beyond the United States, including in my own country, where it’s done tremendous work in peace, cooperation and understanding,” Hoxha said. “I feel particularly privileged to be among this distinguished panel of speakers today to share a few words [about] what came to be known, rather late, but convincingly, [as] an extraordinary story of saving Jews in Albania through the terrible times.”

B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs introduced Hoxha and said of the program: “Our Holocaust Remembrance Day event symbolizes the uniqueness and vitality of B’nai B’rith’s work and mission … As fewer Holocaust survivors remain among us, as horrific atrocities continue to be encountered in our world, our discussion and remembrance is timely, vital and urgent.”

Among the other panelists at the U.N. event was Johanna Neumann, a Holocaust survivor born in Hamburg, Germany, who described her own experience hiding in Albania. Neumann said Albanians of all backgrounds accepted her and her family and that she never experienced religious intolerance. She also stressed the Albanian people’s collective will in refusing to assist the Nazis, while emphasizing the grave danger Albanians faced during the country’s occupation.

“I’m addressing myself to the Albanian audience in this room,” Neumann said. “I have four children, I have 14 grandchildren and I have 13 great-grandchildren, and all of that is thanks to the courage, the magnanimity, the generosity of your parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts. It’s not a big country. [The presence of Jews] was known. Everybody [among Albanians] knew. And they all held together to save more than two thousand lives.”

The other panelists included Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, a journalist who has written extensively on the rescue; Majlinda Myrto, whose father-in-law rescued Jews in Albania during Nazi occupation; and Melina Lito, whose grandfather was a doctor and helped to rescue Jews.

B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin moderated the discussion.

B’nai B’rith’s program followed an official U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, which leaders of the organization also attended. B’nai B’rith played an active role in the United Nations’ adoption of Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.