A Blind Spot: The Holocaust in Kosovo and the Region

On Monday (27.11.2017) I – David Zolldan – presented part of my research on the occupation of Kosovo during National Socialism. The two-part event on “The Holocaust in Kosovo and the Region: A Review of Historical Documents” was organized by the NGO forumZFD (Ziviler Friedensdienst) and the German Embassy in Pristina, on the occasion of the latest publication of collected historical documents in the volume “Occupied Southeast Europe and Italy” in the series “The Persecution and Murder of the European Jews by Nazi Germany 1933-1945”.
In a roundtable discussion, the panelists – both editors, Mrs Sanela Schmid and Mr Erwin Lewin, and the two scholars of the Holocaust, Mrs Mrika Limani and me –presented the research that went into the publication, some of the documents it contains and discussed how research like this can fight the legends and myths about the German occupation and the Holocaust, that exist in Kosovo-Albanian society today. The conclusion was reached that state institutions, civil society and researchers in Kosovo need to undertake more research to develop a better understanding of the Holocaust in Kosovo, which then can be used for developing educational materials – like new history textbooks.

In the public discussion that followed, the panel presented their work to the broader public. This time the focus was laid on contributing to a better general understanding of the Holocaust and occupation in Kosovo. It became clear that the German occupiers had a military-strategic and economic interest in the region and used inter-ethnic tensions and inter-religious divisions to “divide and rule” the local populations. This purpose served also the SS-division Skanderbeg, which participated in the Holocaust and for which thousands of Albanians volunteered, while at the same time other Albanian families aided Jews and saved them from persecution. Because of a variety of reasons (including cultural heritage, religious diversity, political conditions and external factors), Albania was one of the very few countries in Europe, where a large number of Jews survived the Holocaust.

The public interest in the publication “Occupied Southeast Europe and Italy” and the topic was stressed by the attendance of the newly inaugurated German ambassador Christian Heldt and the lively Q&A for the audience that followed both parts of the event. Meanwhile the Memorial and Educational Site House of the Wannsee Conference continues its cooperation with forumZFD and the History Teachers’ Association of Kosovo on educational materials.

David Zolldan


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