Gjonaj, Klein honor President H.E. Bujar Nishani for the Albanian role in saving Jews during WWII

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and State Senator Jeff Klein honored President of Albania H.E. Bujar Nishani for the role Albanians played in saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust and celebrated photographer Norman Gershman whose photographs capture the essence of their history.

Senator Klein, Assemblyman Gjonaj, President H.E. Bujar Nishani

(From left to right) Assemblyman Gjonaj, President H.E. Bujar Nishani, Senator Klein


“I’m honored to stand with President H.E. Bujar Nishani to share the Albanian people’s history with New Yorkers and the world. Through Mr. Gershman’s lens we see the Albanians’ commitment to care for those in need, to foster hospitality in the face of radical hatred, and to Besa, the country’s code of honor,” said Assemblyman Gjonaj. “It is crucial for us to continue to acknowledge and show appreciation for this unique and honorable display of humanity and compassion, especially in today’s world where we must work together to fight the growing trend of radicalism and stand up for justice, interreligious cooperation and peace. These stories remind us that we must remember the tragedies of WWII so as not to repeat those events; however, we must also remember and honor the silent heroes of WWII upon whose paths we must continue to follow in order to build tolerant and just communities in our districts, in the Great State of New York, and all over the world.”


President of Albania and Senator Jeff Klein

President of Albania and Senator Jeff Klein

“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I am especially moved by and grateful to those who risked their lives to shelter and protect millions of Jewish refugees during one of the darkest chapters in human history. Albanians took great risk to save Jews in their country, as well as neighboring nations, and their often unknown heroic actions merit this well deserved recognition. I’m honored to host President Nishani and commend the Albanian people for their compassion and bravery. I’m also proud to recognize photographer Norman Gershman whose work lets future generations learn about this extraordinary relationship between the Albanian and Jewish people,” said State Senator Jeff Klein.


“It is not always easy to stand up for what you believe is right in the face of adversity. Even to this day, people all across the world are threatened due to their race, gender and religion. The actions of the Albanian people during WWII were not only heroic, but are also an example of the tolerance and compassion that we should all strive to possess,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).


Senator Klein and Assemblyman Gjonaj Present Proclamation

Senator Klein and Assemblyman Gjonaj Present Proclamation to Norman Gershman

“Today, 70 years later, in many parts of the globe, including parts of the European continent we notice an increasing feeling of anti-Semitism. The most recent anti-Semitic terrorist attack in France, but also in other countries, make us think the goal achieved 70 years ago is being placed in question once again,” President Nishani said. “We must not permit any kind of question marks and prejudices to affect the young generations, but instead we must act together with determination in the fight against anti-Semitism and in the defense of the United Nations declaration of universal human rights. The lessons learned from history should not be forgotten.”


Mr. Gershman received proclamations from Assemblyman Gjonaj and Senator Klein at the noon reception, where his traveling exhibit, “Besa: Albanians that saved Jews during WWII,” was displayed. “I discovered this unbelievable code of honor, something called besa, and this code is more than just an Albanian code. It’s a code that we all must embrace. When I say, ‘we,’ I mean that all of us — men, women, children — to honor the cultural differences between various peoples in various countries,” Mr. Gershman said.


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