Besa: A Code of Honor Exhibition

November 8 – December 1, 2019

Library Lobby Gallery


This exhibition, originally presented at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, features photographs by the American photographer Norman Gershman of

Muslim Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, a European country with a Muslim majority, succeeded where other European nations failed.

Almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation-those of Albanian origin and refugees alike-were saved.


The Albanian population, in an extraordinary act, refused to comply with the occupier’s orders to turn over Jews residing within the country’s borders. Moreover, the various governmental agencies provided many Jewish families with fake documentation that allowed them to intermingle with the rest of the population. The Albanians not only protected their Jewish citizens, but also provided sanctuary to Jewish refugees who had arrived in Albania.


The remarkable assistance afforded the Jews was grounded in Besa, a code of honor, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country. Besa literally means “to keep a promise”. One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and that of one’s family. The aid given to Jews and non-Jews alike should be understood as a matter of national honor.


This exhibit is made possible by the American Society for Yad Vashem.


© 2017 Hillel at Brooklyn College