By Victor Mark Daragjati
Memorie.al / Until September 10, 2012, apart from some evidence that Kolë Biba himself had shown to his circle, there was no official document that proved the activity that, as Minister of the Interior at that time, he had for the benefit of Jews. Enverist communist Albania has always hated the truth and has closed both its mouth and the State archives, opening the way only for its ruinous propaganda. The post-communist governments continue with blood-bashing fratricide. Indeed, a ballistician, Faik Quku, the author of the book “Albanian Attitude during the Second World War” (1941 – 1944), had briefly confirmed the help that Kola Biba had given to the Israelis.
This is what Faik Quku wrote:
“In the summer of 1943, Leon Thuri went to the office of Col. Bibë Mirakaj, Minister of Internal Affairs, and offered him a lot of Napoleons for the support he gave to the Jews, but he did not accept this money and sent him to a generous behavior…”! According to Kola Biba’s story, Mr. Thuri, thanking him already, left behind, on purpose, a bag on the floor, in front of the chair, without mentioning it. After walking him to the door, he returned to the office,
Kolë Biba saw the bag full of gold napoleons and called Mr. Thurin, to return it to them.
Author Faik Quku’s version, apart from the detail I wrote, matches Kola Biba’s testimony. This story has a prologue in which, when Kolë Biba was in exile in Rome, the Jews who knew him in Tirana offered him help. Perhaps, they knew that Kola Biba had lived for three years, with the charitable help of a Franciscan assembly. Again, Kolë Biba refused the help, which he really needed; they said that the greatest reward for him was the privilege he had after completing his duty.
The Jews in Rome were given two sticks with amber balls as a token of their unforgettable gratitude. One stick was black, the other brown paint. Anyone who has seen Kola Biba, hit him with a stick, should know that it was the same one that the Jews had given him in Rome. He never had another one, and he carried it with him until the end of his life.
Many Albanians have distinguished themselves for the help they have given to the Jews in Albania, Catholics and Muslims, regardless of religion, and for this reason Albania is recognized as the Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem. This merit honors us in front of the world, but some communist propaganda accusations remain undeniable, which must be discredited once and for all.
Kola Biba’s activity is not limited to personal humanitarian acts for the benefit of some individuals. As the Minister of Internal Affairs, Kolë Biba, acted officially, with determination and urgency, to support on a national scale, all the Jews who were found as refugees in Albania, which at that time included the lands of Ethnic Albania.
On August 31, 1943, aware that the invasion of Italy on July 25 had left the Albanian State, weak and politically divided, unable to face the German divisions that had entered Albania, Kolë Biba, according to the document registered as No. Protocol 9/110 of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Political Office gave this order:
Prefectures General Directorate of Police – Tirana We pray to all Albanian Jewish citizens who are looking for passports for Italy, to be issued without any hindrance for themselves and their families.
To order the Quaestors to eliminate all formalities, since the issue has a special political importance. For the visit by the Italian Delegation, those interested take care of themselves.
K. B. Mirakaj d.v.
Kola Biba was aware that at the same time the Allied forces had penetrated the German resistance in Sicily and had taken Southern Italy under their control, it was His intention for the Jews to go to Bari to find salvation. This order did not mark a change in the government’s policy towards the Jews. On the contrary, he aimed to give greater urgency to the procedures that provided the Jewish refugees who needed Albanian passports.
It should be known that all the autonomous Albanian governments, during the Second World War, helped the Jews who sought asylum in Albania. Kola Biba’s action was a continuation and reinforcement of a policy based on humanitarian solidarity and was aimed at overcoming procedural and bureaucratic obstacles in real time, with telegraphic speed.
The honorable ex-deputy (congressman) Joe Dio Guardi and the late, ex-Senator Tom Lantos, based on the limited documents that Ramiz Alia had given you in 1990 (when he was the President of Albania), they had no way to deny the image we distorted it, in which the communists were presented as saviors of the Jews from the fascist persecution. Mr. DioGuardi today.
However, although for the wrong reasons, these American governments get credit for Albania, as the only country where all Jews have found salvation. Note that the Albanian National Archives are not yet open, we had to wait until September 10, 2012, to find the official information that allows us to destroy the deceptive communist propaganda. The then General Director, Mrs. Nevila Nika, made a brief request, through which some official documents were found, which fully supports the activity of Kola Biba.
The documents, in addition to clarifying the positive, self-directed and powerful role of Kola Biba, also make us know the names of some administrators who participated in those necessary actions.
For the sake of historical transparency and to correct the unjust image that many still believe today, even after so many decades of raping dictatorship, since they do not know how to remove it from their minds, we have taken this action.
In order to reveal the truth, we should not limit ourselves to honoring the figure of the late Kolë Biba, but with a more similar and patriotic view, we should honor the entire Albanian nation, without distinction, and also the Israeli nation.
The Jews who sought and found generous shelter in Albania, did not only save their physical lives, but also the religious traditions and cultural customs of thousands of years, which distinguish them from other nations. The contribution of Kolë Biba in particular, of the previous governments, and of the entire Albanian people, is highlighted here to clarify our past history. The fate and generosity of the Albanian people has made it so that the risk of annihilation of the Israeli race is stopped sharply, in the lands of the Albanians.
In 1943, Kolë Bib Mirakaj, using the authority he had as Minister of the Interior, in all Albanian Lands, including Kosovo, the part of Montenegro, Macedonia and Chameria, took the necessary measures in a completely independent manner, without taken permission from anyone. When he returned to the rescue of Mr. Leon Thuri, Kolë Biba testified that he was arrested by the Italian military command, as a supporter of a communist assassination attempt that had unfolded in Tirana.
According to documents found in the Archives of the Ministry of the Interior a few years ago, it can be seen that the communists had extorted money from the Jews with threats. The Italian soldiers mistakenly remembered that Leon Thuri had financed the communists as sympathizers. Consequently Mr. Thuri was sentenced to be shot. When he was alerted to the incident, without taking care of his own safety, Kolë Biba, strongly criticized the Italian authorities, who told them that, due to the haste, they had made an unconscious mistake.
Eventually, Leon Thuri was released under the personal responsibility of Kola Biba. The correspondence that followed after the ordinance of August 31 lets us understand that even Jews without Albanian citizenship had the opportunity, without obstacles, to issue passports. Most likely, the documents of the National Archives show us that there was a daily activity for the benefit of the Jews. Anyone who was very angry was allowed to go to Tirana. Those who knew them were allowed to join them.
Those who had the skills to seek employment were allowed to move to places where they could find work. The Jews, who wanted it, had the opportunity to be transferred from the ethnically liberated areas to countries within the 1939 borders. A few days ago, President Nishani once again requested the opening of the Archives. A similar request from the Archives could publish the names of the Jews who benefited from Albanian aid, who benefited from passports and the names of the administrators who served in this humanitarian activity.
Kola Biba’s activity in the historical moment in which it took place saved thousands of up to 2000 Jews who, according to various reports, were in Albania at the time of the Second World War. Memorie.al