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. Battled 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 which 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 the permission to travel to the US consulate in Naples, obtain visas and to leave Albania. To complicate this, 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 Prishtina 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. In the beginning of 1944 the Germans ordered the Jews to register. Some 2,000 Jews survived the war in Albania.
The General directorate of Archives of the Republic of Albania (Arkivi Qëndror i Shtetit, AQSH) are located in Tirana. The Archives were created by governmental decree as a centralised state organ on 6 August 1949. In addition, the General directorate of the Archives of the Republic of Albania in Tirana also hold the archives of the formerly ruling Party of Labour.
EHRI Research (Summary)
EHRI has identified the General directorate of Archives of the Republic of Albania (Arkivi Qëndror i Shtetit, AQSH) in Tirana as the country's most important institution to hold Holocaust-relevant material. 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 two helpful archival guides, one of them in English: 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: the General Directorate of Archives of Republic of Albania, 2006), and Udhërrëfyes: një referencë mbi dokumente rreth hebrejve në Shqipëri përpara, gjatë dhe bas Luftës së Dytë Botërore (Tirana: State Central Archives, 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.