The home of Albanian man Muhamet Bicaku was destroyed during the deadly earthquake on November 26, but it will be rebuilt by a Holocaust commemoration group.
Muhamet, a Muslim, is the son of Mefail who sheltered around 20 Jewish families from the Italian and German fascist forces during World War II. His home, about 50 miles from Tirana in the town of Qarrishte has been deemed uninhabitable after the Magnitude 6.4 earthquake that killed 52 and left thousands homeless.
When Muhamet was five years old, his father started harbouring Jewish refugees in their home to protect them from the fate of millions of others during the war. In 2007, he received on behalf of his family thee Anti Defamation League’s Courage to Care Award. Both he and his father were also recognised in 1996 by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations- the country’s award for non-Jews who put their lives at risk to save Jewish people during the holocaust.
After hearing that Muhamet’s home had been destroyed, From the Depths, a Polish-based organisation raised $10,000 to restore the home, according to the group’s founder Johnny Daniels. After visiting Albania as a part of a humanitarian mission following the quake, he said that they will aim to raise $45,000 to meet the full cost of repairs.
“They offered our people the most basic of human needs, shelter, during their difficult times, saving their lives,” Daniels wrote. “It should be obvious for us today to come together to return the favour.”
During WWII, some 2000 Jews sought refuge in Albania and were protected by the local Muslim population. Jews were sheltered in Albanian’s homes, sometimes even given Muslim names to hide their identity and others were hidden in mountain communities, away from advancing enemy forces. There were many Jews in the city of Berat and there still exists a “Jewish Quarter” which has now been vacated, along with a Jewish Museum, and a Star Of David in the local Mosque, where Jews were allowed to worship during the war.