A part of the Ottoman Empire since the 15th century, Albania proclaimed its independence after the first Balkan War, in November 1912. On 7 April 1939, Italian troops invaded the Kingdom of Albania. Italy turned the country into a de facto colony but avoided overt annexation. In October 1940, southern Albania served as the basis for Italy’s attack on Greece. After Germany’s twelve-day campaign against Yugoslavia in April 1941, Kosovo and western Macedonia were incorporated into Albania, creating Greater Albania. After the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the country was occupied by a German mountain corps and a German Higher SS and Police Leader were installed. Harassed by local partisans, the German troops withdrew from Albania on 29 November 1944. After the Second World War, Albania became a communist People’s Republic, which was renamed the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania in 1976. The communist constitution was declared void in 1991. A new constitution was adopted in 1998, turning Albania into a parliamentary democracy.
On the eve of the Second World War, Albania had approximately one million inhabitants, very few of whom were Jews. Most of the local Jews, about 200 people overall, lived in Valona/Vlone and Argirocastro/Gjirokaster, while less than 100 Jewish refugees, mostly from Germany and Austria, had made their way to Albania and were scattered over various places. When Italy occupied the country in 1939, it was very difficult for foreign Jews to get permission to travel to the US consulate in Naples, obtain visas and leave Albania. Further complicating their precarious situation, Jews were removed from the coastal cities to the country’s interior. After Kosovo was annexed to Albania, about 100 Jewish men were taken from Pristina to Berat. Even so, Albania appeared to offer relative safety to Jews, thus attracting several hundred Jewish refugees from other countries. When Albania came under German control, in September 1943, the situation of the Jews worsened. At the beginning of 1944 the Germans ordered the Jews to register. Some 2,000 Jews, mostly refugees from elsewhere, survived the war in Albania.
The General Directorate of Archives of the Republic of Albania (Drejtoria e Përgjithshme e Arkivave, DPA) is responsible for the State Central Archives of Albania (Arkivi Qendror Shtetëror or AQSH). The archives were created by governmental decree as a centralised state organ on 6 August 1949. The AQSH holds the archives of the former ruling Party of Labour.
EHRI has identified the General Directorate of Archives of the Republic of Albania in Tirana, to which the Central State Archives (AQSH) are subordinated, as the country's most important archival institution for Holocaust research. Furthermore, the Institute for History (Instituti i Historisë), also located in Tirana, may hold relevant archival material. While archival collections in Albania have yet to be described, EHRI has identified a helpful archival guide that is available in both English and Albanian: Nika, Nevila & Liliana Vorpsi (Sokol B. Bega, transl.), Guidebook: a reference to records about Jews in Albania before, during, and after the Second World War (Tirana: State Central Archives, 2006) and Udhërrëfyes: një referencë mbi dokumente rreth hebrejve në Shqipëri përpara, gjatë dhe bas Luftës së Dytë Botërore (Tirana: Drejtoria e Përgjithshme e Arkivave; Arkivi Qendror Shtetëror, 2006). While a number of other archives and institutions in Albania are likely to be relevant for Holocaust research, the exact number and importance of their holdings have yet to be determined by EHRI.
Outside of Albania, collections in Italian and German archives are certain to prove valuable to Holocaust-related research. The EHRI Portal also contains links to relevant sources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and Yad Vashem, as well as institutions in the United Kingdom, Russia and Macedonia.