The Christian Science Monitor
31 January 2011
Fritzi Weitzmann Owens came from a "cultured city". So in 1938, when Hitler's invasion of Austria forced her to flee her native Vienna, Albania -- "a backwards country", as far as she was concerned -- wasn't her family's first choice.
But few places in Europe were willing to accept Jews, and the United States had a quota system. Albania, one of Europe's least developed countries, became her family's refuge. Offered visas by King Zog himself, the Weitzmanns spent four months in Albania before getting papers for the US.
Weitzmann is one of thousands of Jews to have been saved from the Holocaust through Albania, Europe's only Muslim country at the time. Amid better-known tales, such as "Schindler's List", this instance of Jewish rescue went largely unknown for decades because of a postwar dictatorial communist regime that left Albania's borders closed to the world. Today, a growing body of research is finally shining a spotlight on this story of hospitality, sacrifice, and religious harmony.